5 January 2004By international standards, South Africa’s budding biotechnology industry is small. But a national audit has found that the industry has “enormous potential” for growth and investment.The audit, funded by the department of science and technology and the Egoli BIO Life Sciences Incubator, indicates that South Africa has a “pipeline of potential new products and processes in the research and development stage”.It identifies 106 companies participating in biotechnology activities, 47 of which are classified as “core” biotechnology companies solely involved in biotech enterprises.“The fact that there are already 47 biotech companies that have established themselves with very little support gives SA the basis on which to build a much bigger industry”, Bioventures chief executive Heather Sherwin told Business Day newspaper. Bioventures is South Africa’s only biotechnology venture capital fund.The audit found that total spending on biotechnology research and development exceeded R290-million during 2002, while revenues for 48% of products and services in the local biotechnology industry came to R368-million during the same period.A global audit by Ernst & Young found that there were about 600 publicly traded biotechnology companies worldwide at the end of 2002, with a research and development expenditure of US$22-billion. The firms reported revenues of $41.3-billion.Sherwin says it is likely to be some time before local biotech firms start listing on the AltX exchange – SA’s new parallel market for small- and medium-sized companies – let alone on the JSE Securities Exchange main board. According to Sherwin, biotech companies need to have an operating profit greater than R8-million before they can list on AltX. She says only 20% of SA biotech firms have revenue in excess of R10-million.One successful biotech venture is Cape Town-based Synexa Life Sciences. The company specialises in the production of complex “molecular tools that help elucidate the cellular mechanisms that cause disease, enabling the development of new therapeutics.”Synexa chief executive Justin Devine says the creation of a successful biotech company is driven by passion, planned convergence of a world-class team, and products/services that hold a sustainable competitive advantage. “In the right combination, these factors will attract funding at the right time”, he says.Paul Abrahams, chief executive of eGoli BIO, says early stage financing opportunities for local biotech companies are available but are extremely limited because biotechnology is “one of the most difficult industries to understand and therefore perhaps the riskiest”.South Africa also does not currently have a network of “angel investors” – like in the United States – who have deep pockets and are prepared for high-risk and potentially high returns.The challenge, according to the audit, is to take advantage of the opportunities for the development of niche markets in which South African stakeholders can compete on a global scale.This can be facilitated by creating an “enabling environment” that allows stakeholders to maximise the benefit derived from the potential of biotechnology, while minimising the possible risks to the environment and human health.Abrahams advises biotech start-ups to:Understand the perceptions of seed capitalists.Be prepared for scepticism – SA investors are conservative.Explain the biotechnology venture fully to potential investors.Have outstanding management capabilities within the company – not only as scientists.Secure a large and growing market.Have products/services that can be bought to market to generate some income.Have technological backup to give the project a sustainable competitive advantage.Protect intellectual property.BiopadSouth Africa’s bid to commercialise biotechnology recently received a shot in the arm when the government allocated R250-million over two years towards the Biotechnology Partnership for Africa’s Development (Biopad).In addition, the department of science and technology allocated R400-million for the establishment of three regional Biopad biotechnology innovation centres, in accordance with its national biotechnology strategy. The first centre was launched in Johannesburg in March this year. The others will be in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.Biopad was initiated earlier this year as a collective response, by a community of biotechnologists and other professionals, to the challenges posed by the varied needs of the region and the continent.According to the Biopad website, the aim of the initiative is to put South Africa among the world leaders in the application of biotechnology, in so doing “stimulating economic development, contributing to job creation, and building world-class skills and technology platforms to sustain and continue development”.Through a close relationship created between the eGoli BIO incubator, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are nurtured and prepared for commercialisation. External professionals with expertise in finances, marketing, management and business are used to assist the SMMEs.The centres will serve as nuclei for the development of biotechnology platforms, from which a range of businesses offering new products and services can be developed. The centres will promote research and development, entrepreneurial services, technology, intellectual property management and business incubation.SouthAfrica.info reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo material
Regulatory compliance has hit hard not just the white-collar world of corporate finance and financial services but also manufacturing. In particular there are now numerous guidelines and requirements around handling and tracking of hazardous materials contained in new products.Manufacturers are required to develop processes that monitor and make detailed reports about their products with these materials. Governments in Europe, California, Korean and even China are creating strict guidelines.In Europe, fines can be particularly severe. Violations of the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) and Waster Electrical Equipment Directive (WEEE)can result in millions of dollars of fines and bans on product sales that in turn can cost companies millions.Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) at the top of the food chain are subject to the greatest fines, but companies in the supply chain handling the product, especiallyTier 1 suppliers of the OEMs can also face large fees. The regulations put into effect a process for verification and certification of compliance.The task of tracking the origin and makeup of all parts and components going into the manufacture of a single product can become extremely complex. Many products consist of hundreds and thousands of diversely sourced parts. OEMs have the onus of both ensuring and proving that they are under compliance can be challenging.To help give OEM manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers a handle on compliance, PLM products are bulking up with functionality that allows them to track material compliance.Material compliance data integrated with all product, cost, and marketing requirements create a single dashboard from which users can see on overall view that includes production functionality, and environmental and cost impacts. The end result is more efficient production, avoidance of compliance violations and increased overall customer sataisfaction. Mike Zepp, Director of Material Compliance Solutions at Dassault Systemes said:“Linking material and chemical substance compliance data to all product lifecycle processes enables OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to gain full product regulatory compliancevisibility across their organization and supply chain. This will help to drive hazardous substances out of products, and avoid a litany of problems, such as slower time-to-market, product recalls, potential fines, product bans, poor customer satisfaction and possibly a damaged public image.”
“Land the job that gets you here so you can work to get the job that keeps you here.”I tell this to every current intern or job-seeker who wants to move to Washington, DC. Unless you’ve got a lot of money saved or a source of “supplemental income,” you’ve only got a finite amount of time to find a paid gig. Many job seekers spend all of their time looking for their dream job. You’re going about it the wrong way.Your dream job today won’t necessarily be your dream job in 10 years. And if it still is, you won’t be able to get there if you’re only willing to wait for that one perfect job. Opportunities are not guaranteed for anyone.Here are some helpful tips that can speed up your job search:1. Make a list of organizations, companies, and causes you are interested in working for and find out what open positions they currently have. If your dream job isn’t on that list, so what? The staff assistant opening listed today could turn into that policy job you really want tomorrow. Many places hire from within, and you’ll have the advantage other jobseekers lack.2. If you need to pay the bills, you are not above any (legal) job. If your dream is to live in Washington, DC, do what it takes to get here. If those interviews just aren’t working out, there is nothing wrong with getting a job at a restaurant or small business that will help pay your bills while you’re still looking for full-time work. In fact, I know many people who have full-time jobs that work part-time gigs so they can expand their network. That person you met while waiting tables could end up offering you a chance to interview at their company.3. You are not tied to the first job you take. My first job in DC was in an industry I had absolutely no interest in, but I needed a paycheck. I was there for approximately eight months before I was recruited for a new position off of Conservative Jobs. By no means am I advocating that you jump from job to job early in your career, but know that you will get more opportunities if you are currently employed in the city in which you want to live.4. Have an open mind. Perhaps this is wisdom that comes from being in the work force for over a decade, but most people don’t really know what they want to do. Choose opportunities that allow you to learn how to work hard and get results. Working hard doing things you don’t necessarily want to do will allow you to eventually narrow down what you enjoy doing. That is when careers begin.If you work hard, produce results, and expand your network, you will eventually get that dream job. But for now, focus on getting that first job that allows you to be in Washington, DC. Patricia Simpson is Director of Political and Career Programs at the Leadership Institute.