Innovation is the business buzzword of the moment, but supporting innovation is sometimes easier said than done. However, GE is putting its money where its mouth is and developing the continent’s first Innovation Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The centre, opening in June, will leverage local talent, skills and knowledge to address Africa’s toughest challenges.
In 2014, GE made a $50-million commitment to South Africa to develop innovation and skills, particularly in light of the opportunities for sustainable development in the region. The result is the Africa Innovation Centre, which will provide the tools and space for GE to collaborate with local customers to design uniquely African solutions to business challenges. These pilot solutions will be commercialised by local business teams.
“The GE Africa Innovation Centre will work with our customers and partners, leveraging our global expertise - our people and processes - to find and apply solutions that work,” says Jeff Summers, of GE. “Our team is committed to finding local and global solutions to African opportunities, leveraging the best of GE and global methodologies, technologies and tools.”
Thomas Konditi, President & CEO Africa for GE Transportation, stressed that innovation was vital for African growth. “Africa has a unique environment to deal with,” he said. “As part of the developing world, technology doesn’t always fit with our needs. We have a lot of entrepreneurs here that are poised to help us connect the dots and come up with new solutions.”
The GE Africa Innovation Centre includes an exhibition space celebrating the best of African and GE innovation, ideation spaces for effective collaboration, an agile work space, and a learning and development space. It will also include a physical and virtual showcase of GE Healthcare’s product and services technology with a virtual connection to be maintained to the GE Healthcare Institute in Nairobi, which is currently in development.
The centre will also serve as the headquarters for the Londvolota Enterprise Development company which launched in 2015 with a commitment of accelerating supplier development in South Africa and equipping Small Medium Enterprises (SME) to participate in the GE value chain.
As befits an innovation centre, best in class technology will be used. The 2,700m²2 facility will be the first green and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project was 90% built, designed, and executed by local enterprises.
GE’s commitment to innovation extends beyond the Innovation Centre. Some examples include the anaerobic membrane bioreactor technology (AnMBR) piloted with South African customer Sasol, as well as its partnership with USAID on the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge promoting energy solutions for communities who fall outside existing power grids.