Are there companies in South Africa that evaluate ideas and then help...

Are there companies in South Africa that evaluate ideas and then help entrepreneurs develop their ideas into commercial products?

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Both companies accept idea submissions from other countries, so you could use either avenue to evaluate your product, and possibly sell it into an international market. However, Lambert & Lambert requires an up-front fee of $199 (about R1 400) to evaluate the idea. Davison does the initial consult for free. You can apply online in either case.

Local solutions

On a local level, patent attorney and director of Smit and Van Wyk Attorneys, Wessel van Wyk, advises entrepreneurs to be careful before sharing their ideas with just anyone.

“At this point there are no local companies that have a proven success rate in helping entrepreneurs in this way,” he says. “If an entrepreneur does share his idea with a company, he must make sure he trusts them and he speaks to other entrepreneurs that they have dealt with. “In our experience the entrepreneurs who have made a success of their ideas, either through bringing the product to market themselves, or developing the idea until the point they could sell it, have largely completed this process themselves. They have protected their intellectual property, patented the product and researched their target market,” he continues.

However, there are two governmental organisations that offer entrepreneurs assistance in this regard. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) is a division of the Department of Science and Technology, and will not only give entrepreneurs good feedback on their idea and the steps they can take to develop it, but they offer funding grants as well to assist in the process.

Another governmental organisation that can be approached is the Small Enterprise Development Agency.

“A number of our clients have approached Seda for assistance and have received advice and financial assistance to develop their idea,” says Van Wyk. “Because Seda belongs to the Department of Trade and Industry, and therefore operates on a regional level, funds are accessed on a regional basis. That means that Gauteng’s budget might be finished, for example, but the regional office in Bloemfontein still has funds available,” he advises. “If you approach Seda in your region and their funds are finished for the year, try another regional office. Don’t just give up.”

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