Our Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF), in its current active rounds of funding, has supported nine projects to date through grants of over R4m in total. The funding has enabled these projects to reach important development milestones with their innovations.

The DISF funds designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and product developers with pre-revenue innovative technologies and tech-enabled ideas and products. These businesses are not able to raise funds easily from traditional banks or funding agencies because of the risks involved. The seed funding assists recipients to understand their opportunities by designing and building prototypes; and validating their assumptions around the technical and market-related challenges.

The DISF is managed by CDI Capital, which was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) in 2016 to catalyse funding for SMEs.

Round 3 of funding began in 2018, with six projects selected for funding: Vula, SwiftVEE, Legal Connection, Red Ant Bin Tag System, EveryChild, and GIS by BMEC Technologies. See here for the previous update on these. Some of the successes of this round to date have been three projects attracting second round funding from other funders; one patent being registered and one of the projects reaching commercialisation.

“These entrepreneurs have worked extremely hard and met their key milestones on the projects, having spent over two years working with our team,” said Ryan Rode, Manager of CDI Capital. “It is an extremely complex task to develop and design technology-driven products and we have some seen some fantastic achievements. We are almost at the end of the journey with these projects, but there have been some notable highlights. Some of the highlights include SwiftVEE raising $1.5m in a Series A investment round; and Bin Tag has almost completed final testing and is expected to make a patent application and complete the project by June 2021.”

In Round 4 of DISF funding, three projects were approved and contracted for funding in 2020.

These are:

iFlow by Dr Daemon McClunan: The iFlow is a novel ophthalmic implant designed to simplify surgery, reduce operating time, reduce surgical costs and prevent postoperative complications when inserting glaucoma drainage devices.

Fusion by Dr Matthias Esterhuysen: Patient simulation is a critical process in surgical skills training and medical device development. Fusion is a more cost-effective perfusion system, more suitable to the African market. The system also offers numerous potential benefits to the patient population of South Africa by improving surgical training and accelerating medical device clinical trials. Fusion has completed most of their development work and are awaiting cadaver trials.

Antioxidant extraction from Rosemary by Steampunk Distilled Products (Pty) Ltd: Steampunk have developing a process for the extraction and purification of antioxidants from spent Rosemary plant material. Rosemary plant material contains large amounts of natural high-value antioxidants, mainly carnosol and carnosic acid. These natural compounds are very effective and have found widespread application in the food ingredients industry, both internationally and locally. Steampunk have received their test results on their extraction and have exceeded the quality required under EU regulations by some distance.

“These projects are still in the early stages of their DISF funding, with effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic having hampered the progress in some areas for development work. However, most are back on track and we are looking forward to assisting these inventors with their upcoming milestones. In addition, CDI Capital has five additional projects currently undergoing adjudication with TIA,” adds Rode.

Here’s what some of our DISF recipients had to say:

 James Reid, Red Ant Agri

 “We are doing field tests on the Bin Tag system and generating data to analyse using the heat map and referencing systems we have developed as part of the solution. The application of RFID technology linked to a GIS system in orchards has proven to be challenging but nevertheless exciting. The DISF funding has helped us develop technology that is ahead of its time and potentially of great value to fruit farming in the future. The concept of precision agriculture and the buzz around data analytics and AI in agriculture is greater than it has ever been before in SA and around the world. Bin Tag is a practical building block in this complex and growing field. The ability to geotag individual bins of apples and then build the story further by adding additional attributes such as fruit size and grade to these bins provides a powerful dataset for managing production, quality and ultimately productivity and profitability of orchards. The ongoing field tests are proving the bin tag to be an effective and accurate way to capture this essential data as part of the normal Bin on the Ground Harvesting process. We look forward to building up a dataset over the next 2 to 3 weeks that will be used to verify the heat maps and other exciting filters and reports.”

Heidi Wilson, BMEC Fusion


“BMEC’s perfusion system (Fusion) circulates synthetic blood through human cadavers to provide a realistic live patient simulation for surgical skills training centres. With the support of the DISF fund to date, BMEC has completed development of the system which is now refined in terms of cost and ease of use and we are eager to begin our next round of cadaver trials.

Surgical skills training is of course a vital component to any surgeon’s professional journey and sadly training equipment can be prohibitively costly for our African market. BMEC, backed by the DISF, is looking forward to providing accessible and lifelike training opportunities for Africa’s budding surgeons, accelerating medical device clinical trials, and finally, improving the general standard of surgical care for all patients.”

Matthias Esterhuysen, Steampunk Distilled Products (Pty) Ltd

“In these trying times of COVID-19 the funding received via the CDI DISF programme has been crucial to our company in our ongoing efforts to develop an efficient Rosemary antioxidant extraction procedure. With this funding we have thus far been able to show that our proposed procedure is able to yield natural product of an international standard, using only locally sourced raw materials and mostly self-built equipment. Our next step, also funded by the CDI DISF programme, is to scale up our process to an industrial level, in order to isolate enough material of this quality to enter the lucrative international market for natural food-grade anti-oxidants. The CDI’s guidance and management of the project and funding throughout the application and funding stages of this programme, including through several unforeseen delays as a result of COVID-19 and lockdown regulations, has been invaluable to us.”