Laurea-UJ partnership: Students to create tech-sector jobs

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) will aim to incubate thousands of new youth-driven businesses in the technology sector in the next few years, in a partnership with a Finnish university, said UJ’s Vice-Chancellor Prof Ihron Rensburg on Tuesday 31 January in Auckland Park.

“We want to see our students and other young people start businesses valuable to the economy. We want them to create jobs and grow local economies rather than to be looking for employment. Obviously we train them to be ready for the workplace. However, we want far more young people to plan and start businesses, understanding what it takes, how it needs to be done, and what support is available to make it a success,” added Prof Rensburg.

Prof Rensburg
Front Row: Ms Jäättelä, Dr Ojasalo, Prof Marcus; Prof Koski, Prof Rensburg, Dr Väkeväinen, Prof Marwala, Ms Molotsi, Prof Gravett. Back Row from Left to Right: Mr Malefo, Mr Hannonen, Prof Mbohwa, Prof Van Lill, Prof Ryan, Prof Swart.

At the Tuesday event, UJ entered into a partnership agreement with the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, based in Helsinki, the Uusimaa region of Finland. Laurea University is known for effectively boosting youth entrepreneurship and services to youth across regions in Finland with its EER entrepreneurial ecosystem programme.

Helsinki is also home to SLUSH, the annual global technology startup conference, held at the end of November each year.

Said Prof Jouni Koski, President of Laurea University: “Laurea and UJ have huge possibilities for student exchange and for doing Research and Development work together. There are also good opportunities for funding from the European Union. We are keen to focus on developing cooperation between universities, regions and cities in South Africa. This is an important part of what we do at Laurea University, and we noticed that UJ is already doing that very well.

“For Laurea, it is crucial to take better care of young people’s futures. We create links between different education levels, from kindergarten through to university, so we don’t have youngsters dropping out of the education system. It is important that we educate everybody well enough and take care of young people at every age,” said Prof Koski.

Prof Rensburg said that UJ will focus on accelerating Local Economic Development across Johannesburg and on empowering young people to play their role in catalysing new economic activity in the city, in the partnership with Laurea University.

“We have worked closely with the City of Johannesburg over the last three years or so, focusing on developing youth entrepreneurship. For example, UJ, through our technology company Resolution Circle, has trained many young people to improve the digital skills of City residents, to effectively use the City’s free internet service,” added Prof Rensburg.

“We want to encourage far more UJ students setting up small enterprises of their own, especially tech startups. In Helsinki, about ten thousand young entrepreneurs attend the SLUSH conference every year, which is an extraordinary event. They present their startups to venture capitalists for funding and further development. Many of the startups are founded by Laurea students.”

Said Prof Rensburg: “UJ is exploring an agreement to bring this event to Johannesburg. For an entrepreneur, going from a working concept to a viable business is a huge challenge. We want to see young people from across Africa present their startups to venture capital and angel capital, and qualify for funding to get their businesses up and running. We hope to start with South African youth entrepreneurs and go from there.

Said Prof Roy Marcus, the UJ Council Chairperson: “The Finnish people have a lot to teach us. They have developed very elegant models for creating startup businesses in Science and Technology. In the past, Finland was seen as lagging behind its Scandinavian peers. Mobile phone giant, Nokia, was the foundation of this flowering of tech startups in the country. It was founded as a forestry company and then transformed itself into a technology giant.”

Prof Marcus added that South Africa has a lot to learn about creating markets for the incredible technologies developed here.

Concluded Prof Marcus: “Laurea offers UJ the opportunity to create collaborations, not only between our universities, but also between South African and Finnish businesses, which is a very exciting aspect of this relationship.”

UJ and Laurea senior leadership at partnership meetings

The signing ceremony and partnership meetings were attended by senior leadership from UJ and Laurea in the week of 31 January.

Below the names and positions of all appearing on the group photo, in order of appearance.

Front Row from Left to Right:

Ms Ritva Jäättelä, Senior Lecturer at the Laurea University of Applied Sciences (LUAS);

Dr Katri Ojasalo, Vice-President: Education, LUAS;

Prof Roy Marcus, Council Chairperson, UJ;

Prof Jouni Koski, President, LUAS;

Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor, UJ;

Dr Kyösti Väkeväinen, Vice President: Research, Development and Innovations, LUAS;

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation, UJ;

Ms Moipone Molotsi, Director at UJ Centre of Small Business Development, UJ;

Prof Sarah Gravett, Executive Dean Faculty of Education, UJ;

Back Row from Left to Right:

Mr Labethe Malefo, Director: Study Abroad at Internationalisation, UJ;

Mr Kimmo Hannonen, Vice-President: Support services, LUAS;

Prof Charles Mbohwa,​ Vice-Dean: Postgraduate Studies, Research and Innovation at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, UJ;

Prof Daneel van Lill, Executive Dean at the Faculty of Management, UJ;

Prof Rory Ryan, Executive Director: Academic Development and Support, UJ;

Prof André Swart, Executive Dean at the Faculty of Health Sciences, UJ.

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