Empowering local businesses

PROPELLA, a new initiative aimed at supporting and developing businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay, was launched at its new premises in Walmer Boulevard, South End on Wednesday.

Born from a need to establish an incubator to support and stimulate technology-based innovation companies, Propella came about as a joint venture between Innovolve, a wholly owned commercialisation company of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and Engeli Enterprise Development (EDD), a private sector business support company.

Propella’s main areas of focus will be renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and related technologies and advanced manufacturing. According to Wayne Oosthuizen, Managing Director of EDD, the development focus is on the entrepreneurs more than the technology or the business.

“Technologies and opportunities come and go according to product life cycles, but if a true entrepreneur can be developed, there is business longevity,” said Oosthuizen.

Furthermore the initiative aims to develop expertise in how to access finance, market access, business support and mentorship, human capital development and support in technology and innovation. “We will focus on a model of incubate, accelerate and graduate,” said Oosthuizen.

Businesses will go through a rigorous selection process to qualify for access to Propella and its support services, which includes the provision of offices, mini assembly/manufacturing areas, comprehensive ICT infrastructure, accounting services, secretarial services and technical business support Oosthuizen added.

Funded by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for the first three years of operation, Propella will also receive financial support from the NMMU, EED and local corporates, including General Motors South Africa (GMSA).
GMSA believes that the objectives of Propella are closely aligned to that of the company, and has therefore pledged their support towards the programme.

Ian Nicholls, President and Managing Director of General Motors Sub-Saharan Africa Operations said: “We want to have more empowered local suppliers in place who are technically competent and competitive, and who are able to deliver in line with global requirements.

“This is particularly important for General Motors South Africa, as we have set our sights on progressively increasing our levels of localisation over the next 5 years.

“We are committed to developing local suppliers capable of manufacturing components of world class quality at globally competitive manufacturing prices.

“Through Propella’s roll-out of strategic incubation and accelerative initiatives, local businesses will get the boost they need to be set up to succeed in the future.”

Furthermore Nicholls said there was a great need to alleviate some of the country’s challenges in the energy arena, to assist businesses to operate in a more efficient way and to develop more manufacturing orientated businesses who could potentially become part of the component supply footprint in future.

Nicholls emphasised that General Motors’ association with Propella was important and in that it was aligned to the company’s commitment to help transform the economy by getting more previously disadvantaged people to own and operate businesses and operate in a more innovative way.