South Africa Wine RDI Innovation

South Africa Wine RDI believes that ideas must be turned into value and that the scientific-based research and development we support forms the foundation for wine industry innovation. The innovation process requires operational readiness, strategic foresight and a sound ecosystem for success.

Building an extensive and optimally functioning innovation ecosystem that delivers ground-breaking outcomes for the wine industry is a high priority within South Africa Wine RDI. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has shown how new technologies will disrupt various sectors. The agricultural sector is indeed one of the sectors that showed substantial investment in new technologies.

The wine industry can’t afford to stay behind. Therefore over the last few years, open innovation challenges attracted new role-players to showcase how their novel ideas or technology can address complex industry problems. South Africa Wine RDI and several start-up companies are experimenting with specific industry role-players to test these technologies to demonstrate how they can add value to the industry.

In 2022, Winetech (now SA Wine RDI) contracted Cadence Lyfe to pilot an Entrepreneur in Residence initiative to support commercialisation efforts of Winetech-supported research projects. Evaluation criteria were defined to help prioritise the research projects which showed the most promise to put commercialisation efforts into. The criteria were not intended to be a portfolio management tool but rather a project selection tool. After evaluating Winetech projects, it was decided to focus on two initiatives, TerraClim and PhenoLAB.

TerraClim uses pioneering integrated data resources to give industry stakeholders access to detailed climate and terrain information that will help them to navigate the increase in seasonal changes. The Winetech board approved a comprehensive business plan from Terraclim, and the deliverables and milestones will be monitored over time.

PhenoLAB is a web-based application for phenolic analyses in red grapes, fermenting samples and wines. The platform allows users to generate, interpret, benchmark and store phenolic data in real time. Pilot studies were set up with industry roleplayers to demonstrate the value of PhenoLAB to the industry. Feedback will be provided once all the analyses have been concluded.

The South African Brandy Innovation Challenge, organised by the South African Brandy Foundation and Winetech, once again called on creative thinkers to submit their game-changing brandy business ideas. Hospitality entrepreneur Gary Knoetze, ‘artivist’ Mondli Kunene and distiller Ronaldo Fourie were named the triumphant brand pioneers in the second South African Brandy Innovation Challenge. They each won R50,000 and the opportunity for mentorship from industry specialists.

The concepts that caught the judges’ attention addressed the 2022 Innovation Challenge from diverse perspectives. Knoetze took a top spot with his brandy sour ready-mix cocktail. Kunene merged South African brandy with fine art. Fourie created a Private Barrel Club concept that distilleries could use as a promotional tool for individuals or groups of friends keen on making their own brandy.

An innovation ecosystem for industry
  • Translates academic research into commercial ventures and grows the industry through innovation;
  • Attracts start-ups & students to participate in pitching dens and open innovation competitions;
  • Delivers outcomes that lead to process, product and business model innovations;
  • Attracts investment for innovation in the wine industry.
Core objectives and desired outcomes
  • To create an innovation roadmap that delivers innovative-products, processes and business model outcomes across the entire wine industry value chain;
  • Build an ecosystem of strategic partners that will invest in start-ups and innovative research outcomes in order to deliver solutions for complex industry problems;
  • Collaborate with the Incubator community and key wine industry stakeholders to pilot new technologies in order to demonstrate how agritech solutions can deliver innovative outcomes to problems in the industry;
  • To prioritise projects that could yield ROI in the shortest possible time.
Overview of work done and what was achieved
  • Open innovation competitions and pitching dens to test the ecosystem (University launch labs, SA Innov summit);
  • Pilot projects – Innovation Ecosystem roadmap development – Terraclim, Phenolab, etc;
  • Innovation Committee establishment – Lean Canvas;
  • Engagement with strategic partners local & international;
  • Collaboration with flagship programmes to showcase the value of new technology;
  • A database of early-stage startups in the South African wine industry.