A year-long quest to find South Africa’s most innovative social entrepreneur drew to a close last night when engineer and inventor Clement Mokoenene was announced as South Africa’s representative to stand a chance to win his share of $1 million in business funding.
After going head to head against four other contenders in the pitching den, the judging panel, consisting of Lucas Radebe, Unathi Msengana and Stafford Masie, agreed that Mokoenene’s company, VEHS, had the best chance of winning the international leg of the Chivas Venture IV competition, to be held in Amsterdam later this year.
“The calibre of entrepreneurs all vying for a piece of the pie this year was truly remarkable” said Masie. “The ideas shared this year have global applicability and it’s such a pity that we could have only one winner.”
Mokoenene’s very clever lateral thinking drew a connection between road pressure, aeroplanes and electricity generation won him a R350 000 boost for his business when he was chosen as the South African winner.
Mokoenene’s innovative electricity generation plan was sparked in 2011 when he saw the impact on a runway of an A380 Airbus landing.
“That got me thinking about the pressure and heat a plane puts on the runway, and from there I looked at our roads and the potholes which are a clear indication of how much pressure they are under.”
This led him to consider ways in which this pressure could be harvested to generate electricity.
The Vehicle Energy Harvesting System (VEHS) works, by “installing an overlay on an existing road, extracting the pressure and transferring it to the side of the road, similar to a wind turbine that then creates electricity,” he explained.
The result is electricity at a much lower, affordable price than the 90% of South African energy which is currently generated in coal-fired power stations and has a huge environmental cost.
Masie, who is well known for his innovative tech solutions, said he was struck by how each pitch had a massive positive affect on humanity and the environment.
“For me, it wasn’t just the commercial opportunity that impressed me,” he said. “It was the change that particular innovation could have on eradication of poverty, improving the quality of people’s lives and delivering of services in an environmentally sustainable manner. The winner will represent the SA brand well on the Chivas global competition stage but I hope all the others go on to become significantly successful…for the sake of all mankind!”
Shelley Reeves, marketing manager at Chivas Regal South Africa said that the competition showcased South Africa’s diverse entrepreneurial talent.
“Every one of the five finalists had come up with an innovative way to solve a challenge that they had identified in their communities and I am convinced that we will hear more from each of them in the future,” said Reeves.
“Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling right now,” said Mokoenene. “This is such an amazing opportunity, and I know I will do South Africa proud.”
Mokoenene heads off to Oxford University for a week-long accelerator programme later this year and in May he will compete against 28 other global entrants at the finale of The Chivas Venture 2018 in Amsterdam.