Translational Fellow Programme

Translational Fellow Programme

1. Introduction to the Programme 

Universities are some of the leading innovation and talent creation engines in the country. Stellenbosch University (SU) established the Translational Fellow Programme (TFP) to tap into this pool of talent and innovation resulting from the world-class research at the institution to empower recent graduates to become entrepreneurs while translating research outputs into innovative new businesses.  

The objectives of the programme are: 

  1. Enable recent graduates to pursue an entrepreneurial career upon graduation while developing entrepreneurial, technology transfer and commercialisation skills. 
  2. Translate the world-class research performed at SU into innovative products and services that positively impact society. 

Successful commercialisation of the innovations resulting from research at universities usually requires additional development to demonstrate a commercial business case. The business case is the key to unlocking investment and markets. In our experience, the most effective way to develop a business case is through the continued involvement of the recent graduate who played a vital role in the research. This approach builds on the existing momentum of the graduate and ensures that their know-how is not lost to the commercialisation process. Often, the graduate wants to remain involved in the commercialisation, but financial constraints force them to enter the job market and start earning a salary. Lack of business and entrepreneurial skills contributes to the decision to seek the safety of a permanent job. 

2. Enabling Graduates to become successful Entrepreneurs 

The ecosystem at SU has all the ingredients required for the establishment of successful technology and science-based companies. Firstly, the quality and novelty of the research is a constant source of potential innovation. Secondly, the research not only delivers innovations, but also highly skilled graduates. Thirdly, SU has a world-class team of experts on the commercialisation of university research in the technology transfer team, Innovus. Finally, companies spun-out of SU are incubated at the SU LaunchLab, recognised as one of the top incubators in Africa. 

In addition, the SU TFP aligns with the University’s Vision 2040 and directly speaks to the strategic themes of A Transformative Student Experience, Research for Impact, and A Thriving SU.  

To enable recent graduates to kick-start their entrepreneurial journey, the SU TFP provides the following support: 

  1. A stipend of up to R325 000 for the period of one year to cover living expenses. This stipend ensures that the graduate can pursue their entrepreneurial journey and is not lost to the job market due to financial constraints. 
  2. Commercialisation Support from Innovus. The support includes market validation, business case development, commercialisation strategy, and identifying and obtaining funding. 
  3. The protection of and access to the Intellectual Property (IP) created through the research. 
  4. Incubation at the SU LaunchLab, including mentorship, entrepreneurial development, and business development support. 

3. Interested in starting a business based on your research? 

Post-graduate students close to completing their studies should be on the lookout for the annual TFP Call for applications.  

4. Contribute to the SU Translational Fellow Programme 

SU funds the SU TFP from its strategic fund. For the period 2021 – 2023, the programme can fund two Translational Fellows per year from this budget. The demand to participate in the programme far exceeds the two available Fellowships with eleven applications received for 2021.  

Organisations and individuals that share our belief that we need to empower more entrepreneurs, create more jobs, and leverage the innovation from publicly funded research in the country to create a thriving South Africa, are invited to become partners and co-funders of the SU TFP.  

Interested parties can contact the TFP Manager, Mr Joubert de Wet via email at sjdewet@sun.ac.za.  

View the TFP document