By: Selina Rapulane- 26 May 2023

Mrs Martha Ikome, the Intellectual Property (IP) Advisor and Acting Senior Manager at the VUT TTO

On the 19 May, Mrs Martha Ikome, the Intellectual Property (IP) Advisor and Acting Senior Manager at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT)’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), trained five small mediums enterprises (SMMEs), on Intellectual Property Awareness.

The training was funded by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment (GDARDE). GDARDE in collaboration with VUT are engaged in a project through which opportunities for commercialization to early stage agro- processing companies are offered. GDARDE has provided financial support to business development support of five SMMEs that are currently incubated at VUT. The main objective of the program is to promote sustainability of SMMEs and to ensure that at the end of the program each incubatee has access to funding/market opportunities and possess the necessary technical, IP and entrepreneurial skills required for running a business.

The mission of GDARDE is to radically modernise and transform agri-food value chain, ensure sustainable environment and development of urban and rural communities by ensuring sustainable environment management. They also aim to provide access to and inclusive participation in commercial agri-food value chain and agro-processing; promoting food security; and stimulating integrated rural and urban development; and promoting the One Health System.

The IP training came to being after the realization that most SMMEs have not been exposed to IP awareness and as IP is the most valuable asset of the company, it was therefore imperative that the SMMEs understand what it is and how and why it should be protected and enforced.

The training covered essential information ranging from IP introduction, patents, confidential information and non-disclosure agreements, licensing agreements and IP licensing contract issues, copyrights, and other IP Rights. It strived to do more than simply create awareness and a basic understanding of IP. Mrs Ikome ensured that the training is set out to leave the SMMEs feeling proud of their IP which sets their company apart and makes it successful. It left them wanting to do more to enhance and improve their IPs.

“As the economy and the need for employment creation continues to grow and evolve, there are significant opportunities for SMMEs to expand their businesses and reach new markets. In this process, it is essential that SMMEs prioritise the protection of their IP to ensure that its value within their company is maximized as well as to safeguard their innovations and competitive advantage”, commented Mrs Ikome.

The TTO was established with the support of the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), to exploit the university’s research projects and intellectual property for socio-economic impact to promote regional economic development. This purpose is also achieved by exploiting all commercial opportunities which may arise from within the institution including contract research, and commercial research, amongst others. In this regard, the office assists researchers, students, and community members with the protection, management, and exploitation of their Intellectual Property.