South African innovators need to up their game

Innovators must come up with tailored solutions in response to social challenges.
The 2017 Accenture Innovation Index suggests that South African companies are not spending their allocated budgets on innovation due to economic uncertainties. Picture: Shutterstock

Innovation in South Africa is moving at a slow pace. The 2017 Accenture Innovation Index shows that South Africa has only grown by two points from last year, therefore sitting at 52 points this year. Over a three-year period, the score has only increased by six points. Thus indicating poor and unstable economic growth.

Speaking at the annual Accenture Innovation Ingenuity conference on Tuesday, chief executive for Accenture South Africa and chairman for Accenture Africa, William Mzimba said South Africa’s poor innovation ranking is not optimal for economic growth.

“When we think about the resources that we have at our disposal today, it is a shame that we are ranking where we are today,” he said.

The index suggests that South African companies are not spending their allocated budgets on innovation due to economic uncertainties. According to Accenture, on average, companies are putting aside 45% of their annual revenue for innovation developments, yet actual spending is cautious and conservative at 36%.

The index does, however, indicate that companies are aware of the need to innovate. They score high at the strategy stage with 83 points, which entails creating the plans and vision set to innovate. However, they score lower on all other aspects, from ideation, on 44 points to absorption, on 53 points, execution on 59 points and, finally, achieving the desired benefits on 37 points.

“When we get to how we seek those ideas and how we prioritise and how we put budget resources behind those ideas (of innovation) to get to the execution space, you can see the results are not encouraging at all,” said Mzimba.

“In South Africa, we not doing very well from an innovation point of view, our research indicates when we take the G20 countries that we rank way behind in terms of our platform readiness index ranking,” said Mzimba.

In South Africa there’s a need for a policy and regulatory framework that will allow platform businesses to thrive, he said.

“Regulators have the role to improve our ability to innovate. 

Through exponential growth of innovation we are going to create economic growth, jobs and our economy, country and continent at large are going to move forward and begin to take part effectively in this ecosystem of innovation that is happening across the world, leveraging digital technologies,” said Mzimba.

Accenture’s innovation conference is hosted with intention to ignite ingenuity of innovators and begin to see how they can improve innovation scores.

Mzimba said the largest challenges faced by South Africans and Africans at large are those of poverty, lack of growth and bad education. He says it is in the hands of innovators to solve the challenges that we face.

Prizes for the Accenture Innovation Index went to:

First National Bank (FNB) for Overall Innovation Master (turnover in excess of R35m);

Bramhope Group for Overall Innovation Master (turnover less than R35m);

InterGreatMe and FNB for large Enterprise (joint winners) Concept category;

KEY360 App for Medium Enterprises Concept category;

HearScreen TX concept for Small Enterprises Concept category and

ColonyLive for Emerging Enterprises Concept category.

Mzimba told entrepreneurs, business owners and innovators that the potential of innovation in South Africa lies in finding solutions as though constraints do not exist and using the resources to help Africa and its people.

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Nice article. We shouldn’t choke the goose with the golden eggs or silence the golden harp etc.

Jeremy Rifkin book “The end of work” predicted this phenomenon way back 1995 – “Redefining opportunities and responsibilities for millions of people in a society absent of mass employment is likely to be the single most pressing social issue of the coming century.”…”

“on the eve of the third millennium , civilisation finds itself precariously straddling two very difficult worlds, one utopian and full of promise (for the employed), the other dystopian (imperfect social system) and rife with peril. At issue is the very concept of work itself. How does humanity begin to prepare for a future in which most formal work will have passed from one human being to machines?”

Will Buttrose answers the question in his book” a New mind for a new Millennium”…small businesses in these challenging times will be striving while big businesses continue to retrench and struggles to achieve satisfactory profits”

we need policy changes, “NO”BEE and equal opportunities, as constraints do exist in South Africa. The potential of innovation can only exist in a market that is actually open to all entrepreneurs.

Innovation spend is often a byproduct of capital spending on projects. Very low capital spend now in SA for obvious reasons, so maybe innovation itself is not the problem.

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