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Exploring personnel differentiation at KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform to create a competitive advantage.

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KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing platform (KRISP) is the health sciences Research Center of the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN). The platform offers cutting-edge genomics services. It started operating in 2017 and since its inception, KRISP has focused on establishing a professional genomic services laboratory through acquiring state of-the-art equipment, and implementing industrial scale processes and systems. Managers at KRISP also place emphasis on recruiting highly-qualified personnel. At the time of this research, the selected market for KRISP encompassed users from public research organisations, industry R&D and other commercial users. The need for cutting edge-genomics is fast-growing in South Africa and globally, given an impact of its application in many fields of science. Because of the expertise in health sciences research, KRISP is well positioned to offer genomics for infectious diseases’ research and diagnostics. In the marketplace, KRISP faces a strong competition from large domestic and international genomic laboratories. To penetrate the market, KRISP adopted a cost leadership strategy. While the approach helped KRISP build customer base, it is not sustainable because established rival laboratories operate at scale and are able to offer much lower prices. Therefore, KRISP’s survival and growth depend on devising a better suited approach to attain sustainable competitive advantage. The main aim of this study was to explore personnel differentiation as a strategy to create competitive advantage at KRISP. The focus was on understanding whether KRISP’s personnel demonstrate unique qualities that enhance the value of the services the platform offers. The research employed an exploratory case study strategy and qualitative research method underpinned by two qualitative research tools: an in-depth interview and document collection. The findings showed that the elements differentiating KRISP services were its high technical competence, knowledge, diverse skillset and the positive attitude of personnel. Service delivery outcomes resulting from these qualities included high-quality and comprehensive services offering, reliability and customisation. The KRISP environment and work practices were enabling for personnel learning and continuous capacity development. This was key to sustain personnel commitment and creativity.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.