Enabling innovation across the business landscape is critical to sustainable businesses.

Creating a culture of innovation

Innovation is the idea to market cycle. It involves creativity, inventiveness and implementation roles that very seldom resides in one individual. Therefore it has to be managed and measured to be successful. It is the most important cycle if a company wants to own ideas that give them a unique position in local and international markets. It therefore is important for business growth, economic growth and wellbeing and job creation.

The value chain

First of all awareness of its importance and its power to create value. Also awareness of the tax breaks such as tax returns on money spent on Research and Development; How to protect new ideas and the Intellectual Property laws; Funding mechanisms and basic innovation funnel management competencies; and risk management techniques.


There is a direct link between how many new ideas you have in your funnel and how many ideas you actually realise that impacts the bottom line. The more new products or processes a company launches that causes growth, the more revenue is created and the more spending occurs and the more tax is paid which all feeds into the wellbeing of the economy in terms of equity, job creation and self-feed. There are many factors that play into this very simplistic explanation. But the bottom line is you have to own the rights of some new invention to be able to protect it to drive growth.

The link to sustainability is that you need to be able to do this continuously like companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Tata, Proctor and Gamble and many more. All of these companies have well-established innovation programmes and the management of innovation is part of their DNA.

The challenge

We do not celebrate innovators and entrepreneurs. Their stories should be written up and they should become our role models. We are stuck in politics and entitlement, instead of saying: “What can I do for this country?” You know the famous saying: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” – we need more of that.

The solution

Our future impact, economic growth and overall sustainability will depend on
how well we are able to develop our own innovative capabilities as well as harness the innovative opportunities that present itself in other organisations. The need for organisations to embed continuous corporate renewal has become imperative for sustainability in the current modern and dynamic business environment.The value and impact of innovation in the organisational context further needs to be strategically and visually demonstrated.

The ideal scenario

A well-established culture for innovation in the country, enough early stage support and funding mechanisms. A respect and a demand for entrepreneurship and good service delivery across the board. Accountability and a seriousness to build and contribute.

Fast facts

  • Co-innovation – where defined groups or all inventors are called upon to help solve a problem. They are rewarded with either a contract or knowledge or a prize. Intellectual property can be co-owned or sold on the platforms and models differ from problem to problem.
  • Who’s benefiting from innovative strategies in SA? Fnb, IDC, Anglo American, and Sappi to mention a few, but not that many as most companies have research and development, and not innovation, capabilities.