Who we are
We are a non-partisan, non-political policy and development research and training organization incorporated in Kenya as a not-for-profit company. We work around the synergies between science, technology, innovation (STI) and entrepreneurship. Our work and existence is informed by one fundamental question: why don’t individuals, enterprises and countries use the existing stock of science, technology and innovation knowledge for decision-making and wealth creation? In other words, why is poverty, hunger and disease on the increase despite the enormous investments and advances in science, technology and innovation?
Consequently, our emphasis is on understanding the barriers to the adoption and use of STI knowledge for wealth and employment creation. Our work focuses on three possible barriers namely: (i) Policies and legal frameworks that shape the incentive structures for the application of science, technology and innovation (ii) Institutions including the rules, norms, attitudes, habits and mindsets that shape how people view and respond to science, innovation and entrepreneurship; and (iii) Capabilities i.e. the skill sets – including the technical, organizational and managerial skills - required to turn science, technology and innovations into businesses and social enterprises
Our vision: to be the leading policy research and training Centre linking science, innovation and enterprise in Africa.
Our mission: to equip young professionals, end-users and decision-makers with the knowledge, information, tools and skills that enhances their capabilities for innovation, decision-making and wealth creation.
Our motto: Linking societal needs with scientific and technological means through entrepreneurship
What we do:
Facilitating interactive learning, networking and dialogue: Interaction allows actors to learn new things, new ways of doing things and different ways of organizing to achieve better results. From these interactions emerge better ideas, formation of new partnerships and sharing of experiences. Our programmes focus on promoting dialogue and networking amongst different end-users and decision-makers. We facilitate and promote dialogue and networking in three broad categories: (i) Linking multiple scientific/professional domains e.g. connecting social and natural sciences; intra- and trans-disciplinary collaborative teams (ii) linking institutions/networks/consortia from different backgrounds and orientations e.g. non-profits, private sector, civil society, public policy etc (iii) linking young professionals, rural communities and decision-makers from across geographical regions e.g. from different African countries; north-south and south-south collaborations/networking.
Strengthening skills and shaping attitudes: Innovation and wealth creation are anchored on the ability of actors to adapt to a continuously changing environment. In order to compete, young professionals, end users and decision-makers need to constantly learn new skills and update their knowledge bases. The emergence of new technologies, new methods, new processes, new policies and a changing business climate produces new challenges and opportunities that make capability building an ever present need. We collaborate with national and international partners (particularly R&D actors; universities and other training institutions) to conduct relevant, tailor-made training aimed at strengthening both individual and institutional capabilities.
At the same time, we recognize that strengthening skills alone is not enough. We also need to inculcate the culture of creative thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship amongst our young professionals and end-users. We seek to shape these attitudes and mind-sets through (i) attitude formation resulting from continuous exposure and interaction with successful innovators and entrepreneurs (ii) positive reinforcement including recognition and rewarding of excellence (iii) persuasive communication – reaching out to each segment with the right messages, right content and in the desirable formats.
Generating evidence to support policy and decision-making: Policies and decisions that support innovation and wealth creation must rest on a solid foundation backed by concrete evidence. To achieve their intended impacts, such policies must be implemented, monitored and their impacts evaluated. Lessons learnt from such monitoring and evaluations are critical in making adjustments and avoiding similar mistakes in future.
Our research programmes aim to generate credible, defensible and coherent policy research and analysis that can guide public policy and practice.
Our research design and methods are founded on strong theoretical foundations; informed by the existing problems; attuned to the local contexts and taps into the local/traditional knowledge and wisdom of the various actors to ensure that the recommendations are implementable. We keep to high standards of integrity, ethics and rigour, and our research is always open to public scrutiny. We are dedicated to improving the quality and significance of scientific research results in advancing knowledge, providing appropriate guidance policy and decision-making and achieving development impacts.
How we do it:
Building partnerships with local partners – For any research, policy or development initiative to make meaningful impact, it must be sensitive to local realities and utilize/strengthen/build on local power structures and institutions. We shall work through partnerships with local organizations who know best their local realities, contexts, institutional as well as political environments. The partnerships shall be negotiated and formalized through memoranda of understanding.
Harnessing and leverage diversity of experiences – The success of our programmes will require a variety of key competencies including but not limited to: technology development; entrepreneurship and leadership development; business incubation and development services; intellectual property/legal support and knowledge management; financing etc. As such, we shall work with a diversity of organizations including business incubators, universities and other research institutions; private sector actors, other NGOs etc.
Plugging into relevant networks – Lack of networks (professional as well as business networks) is a key challenge to most of young professionals who tend to operate in isolation. One of our key objectives would be to link our target groups to both professionals and business networks in areas such as engineering, science, agriculture, business and law. These networks shall provide us with a large pool of experts who can assist the young professionals with concept development, prototyping, and commercialization of ideas advanced by these innovators/inventors.
Our target audience
Our target audiences are organized into five broad communities: (i) the young professionals community (young professionals in agriculture, science, technology and engineering (YPASTE); (ii) the rural communities (particularly smallholder farmers, fisherfolk and pastoralists as end-users); and (iii) the policy community (including policymakers, analysts and implementers) (iv) the business community (including business leaders and industry practitioners) and the R&D community (including researchers and research managers).
The young professionals’ community includes agriculturalists, scientists, technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers and researchers who are aged between 18 – 40 years. They constitute the larger percentage of the population (upto 70 % of Africa’s population is below 30 years old) and are better educated and have access to better scientific and technological tools. Yet, despite their big numbers, their potential and competencies have not been fully tapped for development. They are ill-equipped for leadership roles that await them; their attitude towards entrepreneurship and employment creation has been questioned; though often highly skilled in technical fields, their non-technical (enabling) competencies are wanting and they have limited professional and business networks.
We support these budding professionals unlock their potential by (i) providing a platform that supports continuous, interactive learning and exchange of ideas (ii) offering tailor-made training in skills and methods that enhance their capabilities for innovation (iii) providing opportunities for mentorship in business/entrepreneurship; scholarly research and leadership.
The rural communities comprise of smallholder farmers; fisherfolk; artisans, pastoralists etc. In most cases, these rural communities are marginalized and voiceless in determining the focus of R&D agenda (demand articulation) and are often detached from the science, technology and engineering knowledge produced in research centres (access). Because they are not organized, their voices are rarely heard in policy debates. As a result, they fail to harness the opportunities afforded by advances in science, technology and engineering and the policy initiatives hardly address their real needs. Our focus on these rural communities has a twin objective: (i) close the gap between decision-makers and rural communities by facilitating interactions and dialogue and (ii) strengthening local voices - empowering the communities to demand for services by ensuring they have an organized and united voice, and providing them with the necessary skills, tools that enhance their participation in policy dialogues.
The policy community comprises government departments, legislators and state leaders as well as (in some cases, political parties, interest groups and lobbyists). This community have the onerous task of designing and implementing policies from competing interests and limited resources. To support their decision-making, we provide them with evidence-based options derived through objective, in–depth (policy) research and analysis. We shall also support them by translating scientific results from peer reviewed journals and making them accessible in easy-to-read, easy-to-apply formats
The business community comprises business leaders; industry practitioners, budding entrepreneurs. Their links with the R&D establishments are often weak leading to sub-optimal tapping of inventions/R&D products from the R&D institutes. Besides, sometimes their preferred intellectual property models such as trade secrets are inconsistent with IP appropriation strategies of the R&D institutes which largely rely on patents and publications. While our research programmes inform their decision-making; we also tap into their skills, networks and experience to support the young professionals in science, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The R&D community generate innovative products most of which hardly get beyond the laboratories and libraries. As a result they don’t translate into money (wealth creation) but at the same time they don’t impact the lives of those who need them the most – the rural poor. This situation leads to innovation pile-up, clogging the R&D pipelines resulting in wastage, duplication and demotivation for the researchers. We provide an outlet for these R&D products by linking them to the end-users resulting in wealth creation and meaningful impacts on human development.