Westridge living lab visit

Nicole Williams, from Westridge, and Nabeelah Madatt, from Strandfontein, with Higher Education, Science and Innovation deputy minister Buti Kgwaridi Manamela, during his visit to RLABS, in Westridge.

A Westridge living lab, where community members can access facilities to turn their ideas into products and services, one of the first in South Africa, hopes to be replicated across the country.

The non-profit company Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) Westridge Development Lab (DLab), home to innovation and entrepreneurs, in Boschendal Road, hosted deputy minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (DSI) Buti Manamela on Thursday May 25.

Marlon Parker, co-founder and director of the 14-year-old organisation, said their primary focus was to expand their work in Mitchell’s Plain and become a model that can be replicated throughout South Africa.

“RLabs aims to continue collaborating with entities such as the department of science and innovation, as it has done with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA),” he said.

They offer community innovators support in developing prototypes, training and economic opportunities. , where community members can access facilities to turn their ideas in products and services.

Mr Parker said that RLabs was also interested in exploring opportunities for collaboration with the department, which includes potential support for young people participating in RLabs’ programmes, particularly innovators and entrepreneurs.

According to their website RLabs’s main aim is to create environments and systems where people are impacted, empowered and transformed through hope, innovation, technology, training and economic opportunities.

Mr Manamela said that the department ran a living labs initiative which, like RLabs, was aimed at connecting community members with infrastructure, support and resources to solve local socio-economic challenges.

“Through the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which manages the Living Labs initiative, the DSI funds some of the innovators at RLabs,” he said.

TIA is one of the entities reporting to Dr Blade Nzimande, minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, who tabled the DSI’s R10.9 billion budget in parliament Tuesday May 23.

The department has living labs in townships and rural communities in several provinces, and has entered partnerships to establish more.

Beneficiaries gain information and communication technologies (ICT)-related skills and receive support for innovations relevant to local contexts.

“The living labs also helps take innovations co-created with local economic development stakeholders from concept to product or service stage, and supports their used to increase the productivity of local economic sectors,” he said.

  • RLabs House and Gallery hosts First Thursday tomorrow June 2 from 5.30pm until 8pm themed “Syncopation, the art of African jazz”, including an exhibition by Mischa Coetzee at 38 Silverhurst Street, in Westridge. Free parking and entry. For more information and to confirm attendance email events@rlabs.org or WhatsApp text 068 019 6510.