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The Commercialisation unit at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) recently hosted the exciting Karoo Innovation Challenge, in a bid to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and collaboration.

The Challenge is a subprogram of the Karoo Enterprise Development Program managed by the SARAO Commercialisation unit, generating innovative ideas that provide solutions to pressing societal issues. The event, which took place from Monday, 14 November to Friday, 18 November 2022 at the Sassa Hall in Carnarvon, saw 20 finalists from Carnarvon, Williston, Brandvlei, Van Wyksvlei and Prieska being given the opportunity to pitch their business ideas and stand a chance to receive grant funding.

The top three finalists walked away with cash prizes. The 1st prize winner, Patricia Hartnick, received a grant to the value of R30 000, the 1st runner-up, Lizahn Esterhuizen received a grant to the value of R20 000, and the 2nd runner-up, Stephanie de Wee, won a grant to the value of R10 000. The grants are intended to be applied towards advancing their businesses. In addition, all 20 finalists received pitch training from the National Youth Development Agency in collaboration with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and will receive incubation and business support starting from January 2023.

“I would like to thank the judges from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and SEDA for volunteering their time to provide guidance and support to these young innovators. A big thank you to the guest judges who are pillars in their respective communities who will also act as mentors to these young entrepreneurs. A special thanks goes to the Northern Cape SMME Trust that donated R15 000 towards the Innovation Challenge, and lastly to SARAO that made this event a success,” said Apiwe Hotele, Senior Commercialisation Specialist for SARAO.
The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation, is responsible for managing all radio astronomy initiatives and facilities in South Africa, including the MeerKAT radio telescope in the Karoo, and the Geodesy and VLBI activities at the HartRAO facility.

Back row: MJ Maczali, Mayor of the Kareeberg Municipality, Judy Moalkwa, Assistant Director at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Ashley Slambee, SMME owner from Brandvlei, Hendrieka Royen, SMME owner from Williston, Aphiwe Hotele,Senior Commercialisation Specialist at SARAO, Stefanus Tieties, SMME owner from Van Wyksvlei, Wongama Ngonyama SEDA and Ursula Motsage from the Department of Economic Development and Training.
Front row: 1st runner-up Lizahn Esterhuizen, 1st prize winner Patricia Hartnick and 2nd runner-up Stephanie de Wee.

The SARAO Commercialisation unit is currently running a Karoo Innovative Challenge in several Northern Cape towns.

The Karoo Innovation Challenge invites people between the ages of 18 and 35 years old from Carnarvon, Brandvlei, Van Wyksvlei, Williston, Prieska, Britstown and Vosburg to enter an idea to pitch before a panel of judges. The ideas that will be considered must be sustainable and business focused and provide a solution on education, health and/or agriculture and assist in growing the local economy, developed with the seven towns in mind.

Exciting cash prizes are up for grabs: the winner bags R30 000 cash, second place receives R20 000 and the third place entry will receive R10 000 cash for the winning idea. Entries close on Sunday, 6 November 2022 at 5pm.

The challenge is being run during Global Entrepreneurship Week which takes place between 14 and 22 November 2022. The top 10 participants and winners will receive free pitching training by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), access to incubation space and business development to support their ideas.

“The aim of the Karoo Innovation Challenge is to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and collaboration by generating innovative ideas that provide solutions to pressing societal issues. When I looked at our database of SMMEs I noticed that we have very few young people and we hope to attract them through this challenge,” says Apiwe Hotele, SARAO Senior Commercialisation Specialist.

Hotele continues that the aim is to run this challenge annually during the Global Entrepreneurship week: “We have received a lot of interest and support from both government and private sector. The NYDA will be providing free pitching to the participants, our judges are from the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the Department of Economic Development, the National Empowerment Fund and Standard Bank. Absa has also indicated interest in sponsoring. I am excited to see the outcome,” says Hotele.

Applicants should submit a comprehensive CV by logging to and apply online. Applications should be accompanied by a letter of motivation indicating the applicant’s suitability for the position. The names and contact details of at least three referees should be provided.

The NRF offers a challenging career and competitive remuneration package which is commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The NRF is committed to employment equity and redress and the appointment to the position will be made in line with the NRF Employment Equity Plan.

The NRF reserves the right not to make an appointment.

Correspondence will be sent to short-listed candidates only

Latest Positions at SARAO

    SARAO and SANSA staff members celebrated the launch of the beta version of the Digital Earth South Africa (DESA) platform on Friday, 28 October 2022.

    SARAO in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) successfully launched the beta version of the Digital Earth South Africa (DESA) platform on Friday, 28 October 2022.

    SANSA collaborated with SARAO to develop DESA leveraging SANSA’s remote sensing skills and SARAO’s high performance computing and large scale data storage skills. SARAO provided the data cube as a service to SANSA which included project management, systems engineering, architecture design and all the storage and hardware requirements.

    Apiwe Hotele, SARAO Senior Commercialisation Specialist was the project leader for the project, leading the Science Data Processor team from SARAO and the Earth Observation team from SANSA to deliver DESA.

    DESA translates over 30 years of archived Earth Observation (EO) satellite imagery and newly acquired imagery that covers 1.2 million square kilometre landmass of South Africa, SADC countries and other African countries. The system allows users to leverage the full geographic data analysis capabilities of Python using the JupyterHub computing framework. The availability of SANSA’s ARD data in this Python analysis environment creates a powerful and flexible platform for a variety of custom geospatial analysis applications. At the time of the launch, the platform had been tested by users from Eskom, National Geo-spatial Information (NGI), Stats SA and Department of Human Settlements.

    The beta release of the Digital Earth SA platform will enable real world testing of the service by end users, allowing further optimisation and service development through user co-design.

    During this project skills and knowledge acquired during the construction of a radio telescope were used to develop a fully functional image processing, ingest archiving, data access, sharing and application development platform.

    The platform is available at