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26 April 2020

CPGR and Artisan Biomed announce CHIC (Cape Health Innovation Campus), a first of its kind ‘co-working’ environment to boost bio- and health tech innovation in (South) Africa that will achieve superior value through an emphasis on symbiotic interaction rather than mere co-habitation. CHIC will have a total of 5000 sqm located close to the Cape Town CBD (108 Albert Road, Woodstock) and it will go live in early 2021. This is an early-stage announcement to create awareness among stakeholders and to gather feedback as well as interest in the project. A more detailed plan is available on request and regular updates will be provided over the coming weeks and months.

Context

Like most, we have been gripped by the pandemic and have already implemented SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity a couple of weeks ago.

Our teams have been working tirelessly, with partners in academia as well as in the public and private health sectors, to implement solutions that help tackle the convid-19 pandemic in the short, mid- and long-term.

While we have mounted a short-term response to the crisis, we have kept our eyes steadfast on the future.

For those who have worked with us in the past, you will know that we are strongly committed to creating and maintaining critical bio- and health-tech capacity in South Africa.

We are convinced that innovation in these areas is not a luxury but a necessity if a society that is both wealthy and healthy is to be attained. The covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the relevance of and the need for utilising capacity effectively. Countries that managed to bring the right technical and organisational capabilities to bear in an agile manner were the most successful in ‘flattening the covid-19 curve’.

Challenges and opportunities

We believe that South Africa and, in fact, Africa as a whole, has ample opportunity, capacity, and talent to build innovation eco-systems that are as successful as the ones established in other parts of the world.

However, geographical location and the structure of markets are challenges for players in this space on the continent: resources can be scarce or disparately located, creating operational challenges and inefficiencies; goods need to be imported, increasing the cost of products developed and services rendered; a lack of funding means that developments may delay, derail, or fail, a situation that is often compounded by misaligned stakeholder expectations; and, entrenched markets as well as a lack of trust in local solutions (expressed by local and international stakeholders) makes it difficult for ventures to succeed lest they can latch on to and operate in international markets.  

Owing to these constraints, most players in the local eco-system cannot work on par with the scale and scope of international operations.

However, a lack of scale at individual level can be compensated by operating in a collective and cooperative manner, thus combining the strengths expressed by many small players into a powerful force that can compete globally.

Solution

Here, we present a unique bio/health-tech ‘co-working’ environment, the Cape Health Innovation Campus (CHIC). It’s a first of its kind in Africa, and – we believe – unique globally, because it achieves superior value through an emphasis on symbiotic interaction rather than ‘mere’ co-location. CHIC will have a focus on Precision Medicine, a major driving force in medical innovation today. However, it will embrace other areas of the bio- and health-tech ecosystem, including the food, veterinary and environmental sectors, employing a ‘One Health’ perspective.

We envisage that CHIC will function as a combination of offerings that CPGR, Artisan Biomed, and other co-locators can bring to bear, to co-create a powerful innovation ecosystem; and, we believe that the building will create value that is far more than the sum of its constituent inhabitants.

Among others, CHIC will include access to a data-generation core (Genomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics), to generate molecular information at low cost; a data science hub, creating an opportunity for aggregating, storing, governing, interpreting, and innovating with data; a platform for converting omic information into clinical utility and to link multidisciplinary experts in a community-building manner; in addition, it will offer access to lab and office space for learners, trainees, scientists, medical professionals, service provider companies (eg logistics companies), aspiring entrepreneurs and fledgling start-ups, who will be able to participate in shaping a Precision Medicine eco-system.

We envisage that CHIC will play a major role in stimulating business development, venture formation, and investment attraction in South Africa, and in the formation of mutually beneficial links into the African continent once it’s in full operation, at the beginning of 2021.

Our current vision of CHIC’s ‘functional makeup’ is provided below. A more detailed description of the vision we have for the project is available. Contact reinhard.hiller@artisanbiomed.co.za for interest purposes. This is a work-in-progress and will gain further shape over the coming week and months, as we prepare for moving into the new space, at the beginning of 2021.

Prospective CHIC functions, as expressed by the diversity of eco-system members

While CHIC will be the physical embodiment of a bio- and health-tech co-location ecosystem, it will equally be a hub for development of virtual and digital solutions to facilitate engagement with stakeholders in a post-covid-19 world; and, to deliver its solution in a broad and equitable manner.

This project won’t be possible without strong partners. We are excited about the relation we have developed with the property developer and owner of the building we and CHIC will occupy. We are in discussion with a series of other prospective partners and we will provide information about these, and how they will impact on the project’s development, in forthcoming updates.

Next steps

This message serves as a first broad-based stakeholder engagement; and, as an opportunity to gather feedback as well as interest in moving into CHIC.

We are keen to gather a vibrant ‘collective’ of CHIC members and would very much like to hear from you with respect to (a) what overall value impact the project shall have and (b) what members and functions it should host.

Specifically, we would like to know

  1. How you feel about the name, CHIC;
  2. If this resonates in terms of you having a footprint there / being part of the eco-system;
  3. How you feel about the proposed membership (‘functions’) and who else should be there, from your point of view;
  4. If you’d consider yourselves as Precision Medicine beneficiary, what value should CHIC offer to you?

For questions, do not hesitate to contact reinhard.hiller@artisanbiomed.co.za or Judith.hornby@cpgr.org.za.