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Liberty’s Flame Station partners with Wits Fintech Hub to drive innovation

Liberty’s Flame Station partners with Wits Fintech Hub to drive innovation
12-06-24 / Sisanda Ndlovu

Liberty’s Flame Station partners with Wits Fintech Hub to drive innovation

Johannesburg - Liberty has partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand to bolster and collaborate in a space where individuals and entrepreneurs can solve real-world problems.

The space, called Flame Station, is located in the old SAB Miller building in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, between Liberty's head office and the University. It was established in 2022 as a collaborative functional area to build entrepreneurial ventures.

In May, Wits launched their Fintech Hub in partnership with Flame Station, supporting innovation in the Fintech arena. Wits brings with it a knowledge base of developing advanced technologies, commerce, and mathematics.

"Entrepreneurship is part of the fabric of Liberty's DNA, which is why Flame Station operates as an Innovation Impact Centre designed to be a space to 'fuel the flame' of start-up companies and entrepreneurs alike.  We want to see business concepts not only come alive, but thrive," says Oscar Stark, Liberty's Chief Strategic Enterprise Architect.

"Most start-up businesses fail because they are unable to implement or lack the ability to scale their operations. Flame Station changes this reality through the leverage of their idea to execution process which underpins the way in which startups are guided to success," adds Stark.

The intention is to nurture the rapid development of small start-ups, which have the potential to be funded by interested venture capitalists or corporates.

"What sets Flame Station apart is that it is focused on the disruptive world, opening up new markets and new products through game-changing innovations that will undoubtedly be established from it," Stark continues.

"We have leveraged our experience from the existing Centre for Innovation and Cross Collaboration at Liberty, called CIX, to help establish Flame Station."

The centre harnesses the use and agility of a "phygital" environment - a unique combination of both physical as well as digital - to provide a base operations set-up for start-up companies and researchers. This allows start-ups to find possible solutions for some of the world's ongoing challenges, from any geographical location, through state-of-the-art digital services that create space for digital facilitation, co-creation, and collaboration.

The tie up with the University will see Flame Station broaden its reach into leading technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Quantum Computing.

Wits Professor, Gary van Vuuren from the School of Economics and Finance says, "Flame Station will act as a proving ground, developing research on start-ups and creating an entrepreneur-enabling environment founded on creative and intellectual diversity. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for multi-disciplinary research on industry-experienced problems, applied research opportunities in Fintech, Data Sciences, AI, tech skills and innovation."

Liberty, the insurance and asset management business unit of the Standard Bank Group, has long been involved in innovative ventures and start-ups. The company's founder, Donald Gordon, built the insurer on the idea that all South Africans should be able to enjoy financial freedom, leaving a proud legacy for their families. This belief is tied to Liberty's name and flame, inspired by the Statue of Liberty, and imbued with the same meaning of freedom and opportunity.

Some relevant real-world challenges being solved through Flame Station include urban farming. Here Flame Station is working on a vertical urban farming initiative called Click Farm – which could address issues around food production in constrained spaces. One of the key partners for Click Farm is Standard Bank's OneFarm Project. The operation is now moving into the commercial phase.

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