Impact SA

Propella – partners in innovation through next-generation incubation and acceleration 

Propella pic 1

Business incubators are not just for start-ups – corporates and medium-sized companies are reducing time to market of new products and time to implement new manufacturing processes by partnering with the Propella Business Incubator in Nelson Mandela Bay.

This is part of a global trend where corporations are under pressure to innovate faster with tighter budgets. International management consultancy Arthur D Little says the benefits of using what it calls a “Breakthrough Incubator” include “maintaining arm’s length operations from existing brands to avoid distortion and premature death, maintaining anonymity in the marketplace for first-mover advantage, and improved speed and agility”.

Both entrepreneurs and corporations approach Propella with problems that need solving, new product ideas, or concepts that have been developed within their companies, but need the Propella touch to accelerate them to commercial viability. Propella offers the necessary in-house skills and facilities, as well as a panel of specialists and experts who are associated with Propella either through the Nelson Mandela University or privately.

All enquiries and projects are handled with the utmost discretion. Propella understands that competition is tough, and that projects are looking for a competitive advantage. The premises in Nelson Mandela Bay are secure, with fingerprint access control to the sensitive areas where innovation is under way.

The Propella approach in its partnership with companies is to start with a clearly defined end goal in mind. Specialists at Propella work with onboarded projects to systematically define the goals and objectives, along with the parameters within which it must operate – such as budget, and compatibility with existing production and logistics processes.

Where possible Propella matches the partners needs with existing incubatees who have the necessary skills, or whose current project can be pivoted to meet the needs of the corporate partner. Propella is also able to recruit and select innovators with the necessary skill and drive for the project.

Advantages of this type of partnership include:

  • Reducing time to market – the concept is taken from being a bright idea to a potentially viable product or service using the Propella combination of mentorship, training, technologies and physical support.
  • Passion – the people within the Propella eco-system are passionate about their projects. Few in-house projects will be championed as single-mindedly as is done by Propella’s innovative incubatees.
  • Avoiding executive distraction from running the business – nursing ideas through from inception to deployment takes time (which few executives have to spare) and resources that are not found within a typical corporate environment.
  • Securing enterprise BBBEE points – commercialising through Propella should qualify the client company for maximum Enterprise Development and Supplier Development points.
  • Supply chain – With Propella support companies are transforming their supply chains to be both more inclusive and flexible.
  • Mitigating risk – Propella follows a proven methodology for taking concepts through to commercialisation. Few companies have this expertise in-house or the management time and resources to guide the process.
  • Redundancy – Partnering with Propella to develop new products, systems and processes also helps companies to mitigate the biggest risk of all – redundancy. Companies which are not able to adapt to a constantly changing marketplace risk becoming obsolete.
  • Scaling – Businesses, new technologies and new services fail if they are not designed to scale. Propella understands how to successfully scale a minimum viable product or service into full deployment.

Business acceleration

An acceleration programme is currently under development. Through it start-up innovators and entrepreneurs are supported by mentors and specialists in order to help them become stable and sustainable businesses or divisions within the corporate structure.

These are companies – many of which have progressed through the Propella incubator stage – to an “adolescent” stage, meaning they are generating revenue but need guidance and support to gain strength and to scale in order to become sustainably profitable.

In addition to mentorship and investment opportunities, the accelerator will give growing companies access to logistical and technical resources as well as shared office space. An essential ingredient in the success of companies in the acceleration stages is the partnerships which are formed by the entrepreneurs.

The accelerator gives the entrepreneurs time to focus on the scaling up of their businesses by providing bookkeeping, marketing, logistics and operational support where needed. Companies in the accelerator share high-speed data, ICT back-up, warehousing, sales, reception and other essential services.

Propella Business Incubator has invested in a range of tools to fast-track innovative ideas through incubation to acceleration and commercialisation.

In-house tools and equipment include:

  • Well-equipped general engineering toolroom for prototype development.
  • 2 x 3D FDM printers to assist with prototype refinement.
  • 100 watt laser cutters for acrylics, wood and other non-metallic materials.
  • 90kVA plasma unit for cutting conductive materials up to 8 mm thick.
  • PCB production line that includes solder paste application, pick and place and oven.
  • Electronic testing equipment.
  • A range of IoT shields to collectively build a wide range of IoT solutions for prototype testing

In-house skills include:

  • Entrepreneurial profiling
  • Business profiling
  • Market research
  • Drawing up business plans
  • Engineering design
  • Printed Circuit Board design
  • Broad spectrum software programming
  • General management
  • Mentorship and programme content to support prototype development
  • Refinement and testing
  • Building the business and customer validation through comprehensive trialling.
  • Developing the entrepreneur

Partnering with Propella

Companies can partner with Propella in the following ways:

  • Partnering with Propella to transform corporate ideas and “idle” projects into reality
  • Partnering with Propella to accelerate existing in-house projects
  • Supporting Propella entrepreneurs through enterprise development funds
  • Working with Propella to develop suppliers – either at Propella or remotely
  • All the documentation required to qualify for ESD points through support of Propella, which is a Level 2, BBBEE ICT beneficiary.

For more information, please contact the Business Incubation Manager, Anita Palmer on 083 261 6513 or 041 502 3700 or email or visit


Related Posts

Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles