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Samsung and UCT launch multimillion-rand innovation partnership



Joint venture to develop technology ‘Built in Africa, for Africa, by Africa’

Samsung Electronics and the University of Cape Town today launched a partnership to develop innovative mobile phone applications in response to unique African needs.

The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Laboratory (SMILe) – Samsung’s first innovation unit in Africa – is a multimillion-rand project that aims to increase mobile innovation and skills development. The partners in the joint venture include UCT’s Information Systems Department and the Computer Science Department as well as the Cape IT incubator, Bandwidth Barn. The lab has been launched for an initial period of three years.

Brett Loubser, Product Manager at Samsung South Africa, said: “We chose to partner with UCT for this exciting venture as certainly there is a clear alignment with not only corporate social responsibility programmes, but also with our visionary pillar of developing technology that is ‘Built in Africa, for Africa, by Africa’. The project also resonates with our Planet First and green innovation, given UCT’s Green Information Systems research.”

Professor Gary Marsden of Computer Science added: “The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab has been established due to the awareness that the African continent in general, and South Africa in particular, poses unique challenges, constraints and opportunities in respect of innovative mobile applications. There is a need for a creative application development space where innovative ideas responding to these unique opportunities can be explored. Opportunities for innovative African mobile applications have been identified both in the individual user and social development markets. In addition, there is a need to move the most promising applications from prototype to commercially viable opportunities by means of a business incubator,” said Professor Marsden.

“This is the first time that a multi-disciplinary laboratory of this nature has been developed and we are committed to exploring how Samsung mobile technology might be used by African students to address technology needs within Africa.”

The laboratory is the brainchild of Professor Jean-Paul Van Belle, head of Information Systems at UCT, who said: “We are very excited at the opportunity to showcase the great innovative talent of our students. The Department of Information Systems at UCT is recognised internationally as an ideal environment for nurturing the innovation professionals of the future and we are delighted that Samsung has selected our campus as its first research partner in Africa.

“This initiative will bring together academics, practitioners and researchers to pursue innovative and meaningful research and to develop leading edge products and applications that will be relevant to Africans in improving quality of life and providing novel solutions to uniquely African needs,” said Van Belle.

General Manager of Bandwidth Barn, Chris Vermeulen added: “Through SMILe, new mobility ideas will be developed into prototypes by senior students in the Computer Science and Information Systems departments, under the guidance of academic staff. Each year, between 10 and 20 prototype mobile applications will be developed and the most promising of these will be fast-tracked into Cape Town’s business incubator, the Bandwidth Barn, with the view to commercialise the technology. The laboratory will also provide a rich source of material for research.”

Background information about SMILe

The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab presents a “triple helix” collaboration between world-recognized players in the private sector (Samsung, ranked in the top-50 global companies), academia (The University of Cape Town, ranked in the top-150 universities) and local government.

The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab will raise the level of knowledge, theory, and innovation in the realm of the adoption, needs and constraints of mobile communications in Africa. It will translate this knowledge and research into concrete outputs by developing prototypes of mobile applications unique to and suitable for Africa and endeavour to bring as many as possible of these prototypes into the commercial environment.


  • To bring together academics, practitioners and researchers to pursue innovative and meaningful research and to develop leading edge products, apps / tools that will be relevant to (South) Africans in improving their quality of life or provide novel solutions to uniquely African needs;

  • Strengthen ties with Bandwidth Barn and CiTi by having a steady stream of potential student business ventures moving from prototype to commercial application;

  • Provide senior Information Systems and Computer Science students with ideas, opportunities and resources to develop innovative mobile solutions to uniquely (South) African opportunities;

  • Conduct research and publish research findings into the mobile innovation space available and integrate the research with actual development in a true “Research & Development” spirit;

  • Provide the donor with first-hand insight into the unique needs and constraints of the African mobile market;

  • Enable the donor to participate and foster local innovation, in the area of mobile development “for Africa, by Africa”;

  • Seek additional partners in the community, other academic disciplines or commerce to work on specific development projects to ensure that innovation and creativity is maximized across the usual boundaries of society and disciplines. Create opportunities for involvement from all these sectors by inviting them to become “Friends” of the UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab. Aim to encourage their support, interest and involvement in projects;

  • Establish the University of Cape Town as an internationally recognized and authoritative source of innovative mobile application research and development in Africa;

  • Associate the Samsung brand with technological leadership, innovation and social responsiveness through selected high visibility projects in the community and media.

About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a global leader in semiconductor, telecommunication, digital media and digital convergence technologies with 2009 consolidated sales of US$116.8 billion. Employing approximately 188,000 people in 185 offices across 65 countries, the company consists of eight independently operated business units: Visual Display, Mobile Communications, Telecommunication Systems, Digital Appliances, IT Solutions, Digital Imaging, Semiconductor and LCD. Recognized as one of the fastest growing global brands, Samsung Electronics is a leading producer of digital TVs, memory chips, mobile phones and TFT-LCDs. For more information, please visit

About Bandwidth Barn

The BWB is a subsidiary of the Cape IT Initiative (CITI). It started as an ICT incubator in 2000 and is now widely recognised as one of the most successful technology incubators in South Africa, and has morphed into a fully-fledged Business Accelerator. Since 2000, the BWB and CITI have developed numerous enterprise (business) development and SMME support programmes, including the very successful Launchpad (later renamed Velociti), My Mentor, My Business Group, and Women in ICT, and the latest pre-incubation programme, Velociti Y, aimed at supporting idea and early stage entrepreneurs.

For more information:

UCT: Carolyn McGibbon, Marketing Manager, Faculty of Commerce

Email: | Mobile: +27 79 529 4887


Ntutule Tshenye, Corporate Citizenship, Samsung Africa Regional Headquarters

Tel: +27 11 549 7995 | Fax: +27 11 549 1689 | Mobile: +27 83 261 3233

Paulo Ferreira | Product Management and Business Solutions | Samsung South Africa | Phone: +27 11 549 7917 | Mobile: +27 72 377 7190

E-mail: |   Web:

Bandwidth Barn: Chris Vermeulen, General Manager

Email: | Tel: +27 21 4097000 | Mobile: + 27 82 312 5065

last modified 2011-04-04 09:28