Awie Vlok [Executive Associate]

Innovation Leadership Management Change Awie Vlok joined the Department of Business Management at Stellenbosch University In January 2011 where he assumed responsibility for innovation and related research, academic and development programs, and also strategy and entrepreneurship. He also established Innostrat, a consulting company with local and international partnerships.

Prior to this appointment, he headed up the CSIR* Innovation Leadership and Learning Academy (CiLLA), with responsibility for research and innovation capacity building of staff at the CSIR.

In the research and innovation field, Awie has successfully conceptualized, developed, implemented and managed learning & development interventions to build the innovation capacity of leaders, managers, scientists, engineers, researchers, technologists and other professionals at institutional and individual levels, including:

  • Research and Innovation Management course for parliamentarians, co-presented with Pretoria University.
  • Strategic Management of Innovation program, derived from research on best practices.
  • Public seminar on profiting from R&D, presented through international conference organizers.
  • Research and Innovation Core Skills program for career advancement of CSIR SET (science, engineering and technology) professionals.
  • A Science, Engineering and Technology Leadership Programme (SLP) that has had significant impact across the CSIR and had been awarded “Best Training Programme in SA” status.

He is well-networked within the local and international innovation communities and his broad repertoire of innovation approaches and instruments, developed over more than 20 years, has been shaped and inspired by international innovation thought leaders such as Bob Rosenfeld, CEO of Idea Connection Systems. His particular interests in the innovation field include leadership, people, process, and strategy elements following his MBA dissertation on creative and analytical thinking in competitive strategy formulation. He recently attended a programme of NHS Innovations London on managing innovation projects from conception to market implementation phases.

He regularly facilitates knowledge fusion and innovation initiatives locally and abroad, and has taken on many personal and institutional innovation related challenges, including:

  • Benchmarking research and innovation practices (Finland, Malaysia).
  • Facilitating innovation directed knowledge fusion and strategy sessions for the GRA†:
    • Global transportation research agenda
    • Digital futures for socio-economic development (Malaysia)
    • GRA Champions strategy (Washington DC)
    • Community based innovation systems (Kuala Lumpur)
    • Traditional and modern healing practices and knowledge systems (South Africa and India)
    • Advanced manufacturing bilateral research strategy (SA/Germany)
    • Global climate change; strategic framework for establishing an eco-innovation industry (for GRA, CSIR and the Department of Science and Technology (DST))
  • Interacting with multi-national corporations on their innovation practices.
  • Knowledge management projects with the World Bank and visited Unilever in Rotterdam to study their knowledge management practices as leaders in the field.
  • Recently facilitated strategy sessions for CSIR Units and Research Areas include:
    • Nano-structured materials group
    • Mobile Intelligent Autonomous Systems (MIAS), also known as Robotics
    • Synthetic Biology
    • Bio-Sciences
    • Strategic repositioning of several Shared Services and Functional Support groups
    • Monitoring and evaluation; crafting a strategic impact framework for the CSIR
    • Strategic Research Impact Areas road map
    • Modelling strategy for optimising the water management system
  • Facilitated a CSIR/Pretoria University workshop for e-research infrastructure into the future.
  • Facilitated a workshop for delegates from France and South Africa on Stimulating Innovation for DST and the French Embassy.
  • Facilitated strategy session for the newly appointed SANSA Board (SA National Space Agency).
  • Facilitated a workshop on Innovation in the Knowledge Economy in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates delegation) at the invitation of USB-ED, the Executive Development branch of University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Before and since joining the CSIR in 1991, he has worked in Research and Innovation streams of several sectors in specialist and management roles, including R&D, innovation systems, business analysis, business development, management consulting, management services, strategic differentiation and management, commercialization and strategic capacity building.

Awie was one of the first South Africans to be professionally registered as Chartered Marketer. He featured as lecturer, moderator, supervisor and external examiner at business schools in marketing, strategy and customer management and has served on the advisory boards of USB-ED, a leader in executive development and the Tshwane University of Technology Business School.

His career has had many highlights to date, like being a finalist in the marketing person of the year award of the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) for pioneering work done in the professional marketing of research outcomes. He also received best stand awards for exhibitions and a Sunday Times best advertisement award. He negotiated and hosted a successful lecture tour of Prof Rosabeth Moss Kanter from Harvard, who addressed and inspired nearly 3000 executives, academics and practitioners across South Africa on innovation and change management. He was awarded the CSIR R&D Excellence Award as Outstanding Professional for 2008. He has been a contributor to the World Competitiveness Yearbook Report produced by IMD in Switzerland. In March 2010, his SET Leadership Programme was awarded Best Training Programme in Science and Technology status and it came second in the best public sector training programme category.

Prior to joining the Building and Construction Unit of CSIR, his early career started as HR Manager with a SA automotive manufacturer holding franchises for several US, Japanese and European vehicles. He worked for a leading ICT turnkey solutions company for 8 years where his assignments included strategic systems architectures, business analysis and management consulting, learning and development for executive, management, specialists and functional staff, managing R&D as well as establishing professional marketing capacity and practices, culture and change interventions from which multiple spin-offs emerged.

His key motivation is to contribute meaningfully and build innovation competence in pursuit of innovation excellence to unleash innovation potential. He thrives on a passion for people development through understanding and replicating the successful innovation practices of individuals and organizations.

* CSIR is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa, a key player in multidisciplinary research and technological innovation in Africa since 1946. Its serves multiple sectors of the economy and focuses on both public good and economic value creation.
† GRA (Global Research Alliance) connects nine of the world’s leading research and innovation organizations from South Africa, USA, Malaysia, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark and India.

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