Applications are now open for the Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF) – designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and product developers with pre-revenue innovations can apply for grant funding of up to R800 000.

The DISF is a project of the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) with investment funds provided by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and support from the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT). The DISF is managed by CDI Capital, which was incorporated as a CDI subsidiary in 2016 to catalyse funding for SMEs. The current phase is the final call for applications in the current round of funding.

Since its launch in 2014, the DISF has disbursed R17,8m in grant funding for innovations. In subsequent rounds of funding, participating businesses have developed 35 innovations to date, many of which have won awards and attracted both local and global investments worth R377 million. The project has exceeded all targets to date.

The DISF funds designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and product developers with pre-revenue innovative technologies and tech-enabled ideas and products. These individuals/businesses are not able to raise funds easily from traditional banks or funding agencies because of the high risk associated with early-stage innovation.

The seed funding assists recipients to understand their opportunities by designing and building prototypes; doing critical testing of solutions, and validating their assumptions around the technical and market-related challenges.

Applications that support innovative products and the creation of protectable intellectual property are welcome from a wide range of sectors including agritech; biotechnology and health; construction; advanced manufacturing technology; low-carbon technology; renewable energy; information, communication technology; and software engineering (data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc.).

“Ask any innovator what holds them back from developing their new products and growing their business – and they will tell you: the resources that give them the freedom to take the next steps. This is exactly what the DISF provides – seeding an innovator’s next phase and launching them on a path towards commercialisation. Very few of the fantastic South African inventions supported over the many years by the DISF would have seen the light of day were it not for a fund like this,” says Erica Elk, Group CEO at the CDI.

A snapshot from some of the businesses that received funding from the DISF:

“CDI Capital enabled us to use what we had learnt in the past, to put a small team together, and do a lot of R&D and prototyping on what works and what does not,” said David Krige of Cape Aerospace Technologies (CAT), which provides the micro and small gas turbine industries with various propulsion system solutions.

“It enabled us to offer a product concept, build it in prototype form, and do some customer development and field work,” says Justin Coetzee of Go Metro, which uses data generated by GoMetro’s commuter app for location and movement, and mapping transport networks. GoMetro now generates R60 million annual revenue from a global client base, with 87 people on its payroll.

Dr Daemon McClunan of LIQID Medical, an innovative South African company based in Cape Town, is pioneering a new class of glaucoma devices. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and they are developing devices that offer the highest potential for cost-saving benefits and preventing blindness from glaucoma. Founder, Dr McClunan, says the funding from CDI Capital helped take the business from “a small desk-based business to a real business with patents awarded, a real working concept device and their first employees. It gave other investors the confidence to partner with LIQID Medical.” They have now grown to a mature start-up with a large team and a wide portfolio of patents and devices in clinical trials already. They have gone on to win in the Digital Health and Medical Devices category at the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit in Paris this March, a renowned international start-up competition.

Impulse Biomedical developed the Easy Squeezy, a device that attaches to a standard asthma pump, enabling young children, elderly, and disabled patients to easily activate the device when they are suffering from an asthma attack. Headed up by Giancarlo Beukes and Gokul Nair, they have just won second place in the Social Innovation category at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards this year. “The DISF funding helped us to get the product closer to the hands of patients,” says Nair.

“DISF support and funding enabled us to invest time and resources into building a brand-new product that landed up transforming our business, changing us from a professional services company to a product company and unlocking multiple revenue streams and making us attractive to outside investors,” says Guy Stern of Legal Connection. Legal Connection has built a matter management platform on which legal work can take place.

“The DISF funding was essential to landing our private seed funding round and later our Series A. Without DISF, SwiftVEE would not have been where we are today,” says Russel Luck of SwiftVEE, which developed the largest independent online livestock trading platform in South Africa.

SwiftVEE and LIQID Medical also both won second and third place in the SAIS (SA Innovation Summit) 2023 pitching event.

See here for the full DISF Impact Report 2022 – click here.

How to apply:

Applications are open until 5pm on 15 January 2024

Applicants are encouraged to read the application guidelines prior to sending their applications. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

For more information and to apply, kindly visit