UKZN’s School of Management, IT and Governance recently hosted delegates from the United States who visited South African universities on behalf of the United States-South Africa Higher Education Network. The network was launched in May 2016 by delegation member Professor Kyle Farmbry, Dean of the Graduate School and a Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University. 

The visit was part of a US Embassy-funded initiative to explore partnership building between the US and South African university commercialisation entities. Its goals are to explore potential collaborations around university commercialisation and enterprise development; capacity-building needs to develop university entrepreneurial ecosystems; and potential collaborations to engage South African and US investors in university-anchored commercialisation and enterprise development initiatives as well as the development of shared commercialisation strategies. 

In Durban and the other centres they visited, the US delegates had a special interest in learning about business incubation sites and other university-anchored enterprise development sites – such as UKZN’s SHAPE incubator for student entrepreneurship and the InQubate business trading space. 

They were keen to gain a better understanding of the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem with a view to establishing South African infrastructure to partner with the US efforts. At School and UKZN Research Office level, there was useful and stimulating exchange with the US delegates on possibilities for future collaboration. This could include exchange programmes focused on enterprise development and the establishment of networks between angel investors, venture funders, university commercialisation officers, and entrepreneurs. 

An important theme of the discussions was how academic research can be transformed into commercial products. This was put into sharp perspective by Mr Drew Bennett, Associate Director of Software Licensing with the University of Michigan, who cited the example of research commercialisation of technology amounting to USD 1.55 billion that was generated at his university. 

The programme for the visit also included a highly successful guest lecturer colloquium for MCom Advanced Business Strategy students in the Self-Funding Teaching Programme. Focus points included why sound strategy execution requires astute management to build core competencies and competitive capabilities; issues to consider in organising the work effort and why strategy-critical activities should be the main building blocks of the organisational structure; the pros and cons of centralised and decentralised decision making in implementing and executing the chosen strategy and what managers need to do to promote successful strategy execution. 

The colloquium was enthusiastically received by the students, with dynamic and interactive debate between them and the US delegates. 

Watch the colloquium at https://youtu.be/tGJIMdQMttQ

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga 

Photograph: Supplied