Updated: Apr 17
On March 22nd, 2022, the world witnessed the launch of Arm’s first ecosystem lab in South Africa; the (E3)NGAGE Lab, which will focus on educating, training, developing & offering a platform for demonstration of Arm’s capabilities within local tech innovation hubs, education institutions, developer communities, governmental, non-governmental organizations and catalyze start-ups throughout South Africa. The launch was hybrid, held at the Cortex Hub – 33 Church Street, East London, Eastern Cape, S.A, 5200.
This prestigious event was open to the public and attended by guests from all over the globe. Special guests attended this event in-person, the likes of Sentech CEO – Mlamli Booi, Senior IT Manager from the Eastern Cape Office of The Premier – Nosisa Penxa, CEO and Founder of Mahube Solutions – Bongani Bunu, Chapter Co-director of StartupGrind East London – Sibongile Booi, Phumzile Matikinca from the Eastern Cape Province Legislature in Bhisho and Songezo Boyisi from ECDC’s InvestSA One Stop Office. The Cortex Hub entrepreneurs and other guest attendees were accommodated in the facility's Auditorium; the rest of the target audience participated in the occasion virtually online due to the building only being able to accommodate 50 people gathered inside.
The Patron of the Cortex Hub; Dr Andile Ngcaba, shared opening remarks to officially kick off the launch. Arm was represented by Senior Director in Business Development - Emerging Economies - Stephen Ozoigbo; Vice President of Channel Sales - Hal Conklin; Project Manager - Marvin Rotermund; SVP Sales and Partner Enablement - Will Abbey and other colleagues of the Arm team. In the course of the launch, Cortex Hub shared video messages of congratulations and support from industry stakeholders and people who showed their support for this brand-new Lab. The Cortex Hub was represented by Project Manager - Aya Dlova; Lab Manager - Luthando Maqondo; Developer Relations Manager - Tulani Bango; Marketing Associate - Vuyisa Diniso; Graphic Designer - Lunga Feni; Partnership Associate - Siyabulela Mausi; Startups Advocacy - Bonke Kweza; Board Members - Nico Kamalenga Muka & Anda Ngcaba and the rest of Cortex Hub's entrepreneurs.
As part of the programme, a panel discussion led by some members of the project team had the opportunity to pick among various sessions to discuss topics and develop guidelines. Topics included: Cortex Hub structure; Understanding Arm, Coordination and Programmes; Eastern Cape Automotive Industry; How will the existing Labs at the Cortex Benefit from the newly-built (E3)NGAGE Lab; Arduino in education; Leveraging information coming out of SKA -Square Kilometre Array; Inclusion and Diversion; Engaging with students & Universities and more. A presentation on Arm ecosystem opportunities followed. At the conclusion of the launch, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to officially open the (E3)NGAGE Lab. Guests then proceeded to a cocktail reception and networked.
Dr Ngcaba has been championing innovation within the IT industry environment for over 40 years. He is the Chairman of Convergence Partners, an investment firm located in Johannesburg and Lagos which is a Pan African Investment Platform with 20 years in existence. In his opening speech, he introduced what Cortex Hub is all about. He shared how Convergence Partners has been contributing to the growth of Cortex Hub since inception in 2014. This is so that young entrepreneurs can be able to develop entrepreneurial skills after graduating from universities.
The Cortex Hub is home to an Automotive Ethernet Lab, which supports software defined vehicles; a Fiber Optic training lab for providing connectivity to homes and businesses; Bare Metal as a service platform; Robotics & Coding; eSports & Gaming; and the Eastern Cape Film Hub. Among Cortex Hub's operational labs, the E(3)NGAGE Lab has found a home. Dr Ngcaba expressed appreciation to Arm, “Today is the inaugural day of this very magnificent laboratory that we have been built and provided for by Arm, as I have acknowledged them again earlier …adding to the list of labs that we have here at the Hub. I want to thank our colleagues from Arm for being part of us in this journey and spending time to assist us and guide us and be patient with us in helping us establish this lab. For the work you have done and the guidance you have given the team here, we are really indebted to you for making sure we are on the leading edge of that partnership with Arm on the continent. On that note, I would like to thank you.”
Hal Conklin covered the purpose of this partnership event launch. In his presentation he spoke about how Arm saw an opportunity in the region, mainly in: government, education institutions, research institutions, developer community, start-ups community, impact stakeholders and working with ecosystem partners, with the aims of creating a new experience for South Africa’s market. Further, he explained how Arm is bringing in diverse technologies and seeking to accelerate those in the local community through IP, Software, Hardware, Machine Learning, and other technologies. Arm can help the community adopt Arm technologies. This will enable new solutions that have not been seen in the market place before, work on sustainability goals, and will catalyze new market opportunities. Hal Conklin concluded by adding, “…we are very excited about the opportunity, and I am glad we are here to be able to take this journey with you”, referring to the Cortex Hub.
Further discussing ecosystem opportunities, Stephen Ozoigbo stressed the importance of teaching and training the technologists of the future (children and students), as well as SDG focus areas. Considering the Eastern Cape is known as the automotive capital of Africa, Arm intends to make the most of the following points:
1. Automotive - Proving Startup support for the Cortex Hub’s Automotive Ethernet Lab (this includes three pillars that guide Arm’s work within the automotive space: compute, security and safety)
2. IoT - Provide Arm Virtual Hardware tools to support Cortex Hub’s Electronics Hardware Lab (set of Arm projects & tools: cassini, centauri and PSA Certified)
3. Infrastructure – Infrastructure pilot projects with the Cortex Hub Bare Metal Lab (innovation, prototyping and research)
4. Build on Arm learning programs for K12 learners; for primary and secondary school children; “The leaders of tomorrow and the future of South Africa” - Stephen Ozoigbo. Foundation and fun skills' development for young learners at the Cortex Hub Robotics Lab. Arm has brought in partners like Arduino, Micro:bit, Raspberry Pi to help these young learners improve their coding, electronics and programming skills.
Cortex Hub and Arm plan to launch learning challenges to train future technologists. These educational challenges will target young learners, university students and teachers. One of these challenges is promoting computing education in primary and secondary schools through K-12 Learning. Student Cluster to teach high performance computing to university students across South Africa and Embedded Learning for pro-page embedded systems, IoT, TinyML knowledge among students, hobbyists and professionals, this challenge will be open to the rest of the communities.
Plans are being developed to build a network of global problem solvers in order to bridge the digital divide between people, places, and operations. In the scope of this project, six sustainable goals are addressed: 4 Quality Education, 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, 9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, 13 Climate Action, 17 Partnerships for the Goals, and 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities. SDG 17 is where this partnership enters the picture, where ecosystem partners become involved. Arm is committed to working with all its partners to ensure that they can accomplish this together.
Stephen closed with a message of thanks, "On behalf of myself, the team, the Arm leadership I would like to thank you for the partnership opportunities and certainly reaffirm our commitment not only to Africa, but to bring Arm technologies into the region and really accelerate our value proposition anywhere that computing adds value. In this case starting with South Africa. As part of our acknowledgements, we want to thank Convergence Partners, the Cortex Hub, ECDC, the CSIR, government and non-government partners in the region. We appreciate Digital Council Africa, Sentech, MICT Seta, and all of those who have stepped forward locally to support this initiative. Thank you."
PANEL DISCUSSION INTERESTING POINTS
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT...
1. Luthando Maqondo, Lab Manager, Cortex Hub “We are entrepreneurs so it’s always an exciting time to see such kinds of collaborations …we will be learning and developing our business further. This for us presents an opportunity to expand and network.”
2. Siyabulela Mausi, Partnership Associate, Cortex Hub “Without giving everything away, we are in discussions with an organisation that focuses on women and people living with disabilities. Through this potential partnership, more women, youths, unemployed graduates, and people from different races and backgrounds will have the same opportunities as everybody else. We strive for inclusion and diversity”
3. Bonke Kweza, Startups Advocacy “I think it is very critical for everybody to note that for any ecosystem to survive and thrive it needs some form of energy from the outside in order for it to survive and in this case, this energy has come in the form of Cortex Hub and Arm Limited who have given an opportunity to entrepreneurs, academics, innovators and students. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the stakeholders, Arm, Cortex Hub, CSIR. We are honored to be the very first team to drive this initiative in South Africa.”
4. Tulani Bango, Developer Relations Manager “I was playing around with Arduino the other day and someone who was at the Robotics Lab approached me, showing interest in knowing how he could become part of this initiative and we discussed how he could actually have his own Arduino. One significant factor he mentioned was that he cannot afford an Arduino startup kit and that really touched me. The Cortex Hub having an Arduino Inspirational Lab inside the Arm Lab will help us give training opportunities to the less fortunate. We encourage people to attend our workshops and training.”
RIBBON CUTTING & COCKTAIL RECEPTION
The official opening of the (E3)NGAGE Lab was done by the Patron of the Cortex Hub, alongside Sentech’s CEO – Mlamli Booi and the project team. 22nd of March marks the anniversary of the first Arm Ecosystem in Africa. The event ended on a high note with a cocktail session. Guests indulged in refreshing virgin cocktails and networked.
Arm's Ecosystem will be introduced to South Africa through the Cortex Hub. The IP Solution capabilities of Arm will be demonstrated. The Hub will involve and educate the local technology ecosystem in the Eastern Cape. It will also support 4IR projects for partners in the private and public sectors and accelerate regional sustainability projects. The Cortex Hub together with Arm aims at training 2000 developers across South Africa over 12 months. This is done through ecosystem engagements, such as demos, summits, developer tools, summits, partnerships, workshops and training.
Cortex Hub's opening of an ecosystem lab in partnership with Arm Limited is a time of heightened excitement. This lab is designed in line with Arm's Engagement Strategies, which aim to develop computerized economies in Africa. Cortex Hub and Arm are both driven by 'technology innovation and information revolution', which changes how people work, learn, and think, so this unique partnership came at an appropriate time in the 4IR era. Cortex Hub’s goal has always been to grow Eastern Cape's innovative environment in Automotive, IoT, Mechanical technology, High Performance Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML), Telecommunications, Robotics etc. And with Arm as a new partner, it will accomplish this goal.