The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) held its annual conference on July 5th 2022 in Bujumbura, Burundi. The theme of the conference was ‘Strengthening academic-industry partnership for commercialization of research and innovation in the EAC: Prospects for regional integration’
The Vice Chancellor, Moi University, Prof. Isaac Kosgey, made the keynote presentation onAcademia – Industry Partnership for Commercialization of Research & Innovation in EAC: Lessons and Opportunities for Regional Integration.
Prof. Kosgey noted that academia needs to develop solutions through research and innovation while industry has the competencies to commercialise such solutions.
He said that without research and innovation policies, without a policy framework, innovation may not move to the next level and called on universities to develop policies that support innovation.
Moi University hosts the Higher Education Programme in Sub-Saharan Africa (HEPSSA) project which supports faculty attachment in industry for short periods.
In addition, Moi University hosts the Center of Excellence in Phytochemicals, Textile and Renewable Energy (ACE II PTRE), one of the 24 Africa Centers of Excellence hosted at 16 universities in Eastern and Southern Africa.
With a grant from the World Bank, in May 2019 IUCEA selected four centers and awarded them a total of US$1 million to establish incubation centers. ACE II PTRE at Moi University is one of the hosts of an incubation center. The incubation center has supported the development of several products that are ready for commercialization
“One of the things Moi University has done well is entrepreneurial boot camps where we bring young innovators, train them in business development and they are able to move forward,” said Prof. Kosgey. “We have established a technology transfer office to facilitate innovators to move on to engage with the industry.”
Moi University operates enterprises including Rivatex East Africa Ltd – a textile manufacturing. Elimu Millers, Apples Agriculture Project, Bio-Safe Fruit preservative, among others.
The Regional Project Coordinator, ACE II Project, Dr. Jonathan Mbwambo, presented on Commercialisation of Research and Innovation – Experience from the ACE II Project. He noted that while the four ACE II supported incubation centers have demonstrated the potential for commercialisation of products, results are slow and researchers have to work closely with other stakeholders, including marketers to promote the products.
The World Bank Task Team Lead for the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE II) Project, Roberta Malee Bassett said commercialisation of research is what the Centers of Excellence are doing in the last phase of the project. “This is an important next step in what universities can contribute to their economic development of not just their own independent countries but the region’s collaboration in terms of faculty development and research and ability to bring in capital from external financers.”
The IUCEA Executive Secretary, Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona, said universities should not just be ivory towers but should contribute to the development process through research and innovation.
He called on governments to turn to universities for solutions to community challenges. He equally invited universities to position themselves in research and innovation and be relevant to the fast changing needs of industry and the productive sector in general.
“What solutions are we bringing on the table, say in tackling issues of emerging diseases, global energy, livelihood and incomes in the Community? All our efforts and aspirations are towards East African Community integration, therefore is academia. How can we strengthen partnership with industry and research and innovation as drivers of innovation?”
The IUCEA is an institution of the East African Community responsible for higher education and research. IUCEA facilitates networking and knowledge sharing among universities in East Africa and beyond. IUCEA is also the Regional Facilitation Unit for the World Bank financed ACE II Project.