Innovation is alive and well in South Africa

Innovation is alive and well in South Africa

Amid all the negative news we hear about South Africa, it is always encouraging to pick up on positive stories about the country and its people.

A small news article on the News24 website once again highlighted the ingenuity of South African entrepreneurs, whether they are farmers, business people, engineers or doctors, but to name a few. In this case, a South African innovator, Alan Flemming, is farming fish in an impoverished part of the Western Cape. The compact fish farm is housed in a shipping container. It can be powered with solar energy, and the waste product (nitrogenous by-products) can be sold to farmers as a fertiliser for their fields. But the main product from this innovation is protein in the form of fish.

Setting up such compact farms can produce high-grade food in the form of protein in an area where impoverished communities wouldn’t normally have access to protein, which is usually expensive. The project can also create jobs, and even the waste product has commercial value.

Alan Flemming has been nominated as one of the finalists for the Siemens Stiftung’s “Empowering people” award in a competition that saw more than 800 entries from 90 countries.

Similarly, after a lot of media attention over the past few weeks, Lodox has again appeared in the news. Engineering News highlighted the latest product on offer from Lodox Systems (Pty) Ltd: the Lodox Xmplar-dr. This full-body, low-dose X-ray scanner is still the only scanner in the world to produce diagnostic quality full-body images, all at a very low dose to the patient, and in only 13 seconds per full-body scan.

The technology in the Xmplar-dr is not significantly different from that in the previous model, the Statscan, but the user interface has been streamlined to make it even easier to navigate and use. In the trauma setting, time is of the essence, and the quicker the machine can be set to take the scan, the more time there is for trauma personnel to make the right decisions for treating the patient. It also means that the trauma radiographers are under a bit less pressure to obtain the images for the doctors attending the patient.

In addition, the process of selecting the technique factors for taking the X-ray image have been further automated by the addition of a “smart” trolley. The trolley or gurney the patient is imaged on now communicates with scanner. The patient is automatically weighed and the correct technique factors, based on their mass, are selected by the scanner. The smart trolley also adjusts its height in response to rotation of the C-arm, thus reducing a two-step process of rotating the C-arm and manually adjusting the height of the gurney for the appropriate position to a single, smooth button operation.

Lodox, a fully South African company, is making inroads in the domestic and international markets with this innovative and unique product. There are currently 42 installations worldwide in trauma units and forensic pathology laboratories.

The South African spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and excellence is definitely alive and well in South Africa. We may be a small country and we may be a relatively small player on the international stage, but we are out there, and we are “proudly South African”.

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