Entrepreneurship has been shown to have beneficial impact on governance by encouraging decentralization of power as a result making both governments and markets function more efficiently. It helps to reduce the power of incumbents by increasing consumer options and facilitates the introduction of technological and organizational innovations into the economy. By so doing, entrepreneurship serves to pile pressure on incumbents (both governments and corporates) to improve the quality of goods and services provided.

Project 1: The lab2web Initiative

Linking R&D to the Market through Social Technologies

What is the problem?

Status: Ongoing

This project addresses the disconnect between the R&D conducted in the universities and research institutes and the intended end-users including the farming communities, agribusiness actors, policymakers amongst others. It is premised on the fact that while the universities and other research institutes are developing technologies and new innovations that could help improve productivity and competitiveness, these innovations and technologies remain in the shelves and are not taken up by the intended users.

The reasons for this disconnect are manifold but largely associated with the fact that the end users are rarely aware of the technologies existing in the R&D institutes which could solve their problems. As such, they end up conducting new research on the same problems, technologies and/or innovations leading to wastage and duplication. This lack of awareness of what exists in R&D institutes also leads to duplications with other R&D institutes and universities working on the same problems, churning out the same solutions, technologies or innovations. This duplication, wastage and lack of awareness also undermine competitiveness and progress i.e. instead of improving on what exists, too many resources are spent on generating the same technologies with no value addition.

The use of participatory social technologies such as interactive web-based platforms that allow interactive learning have the potential of solving the problems of learning and access to knowledge between the R&D institutes and the productive sectors/ end users. This project is designed to pilot the use of such social technologies to connect R&D to its market and promote interactive learning between the actors.

Why is this important?

The lack of proper linkages between the knowledge, technologies and innovations produced by the R&D actors and the intended beneficiaries is a key constraint to the application of such knowledge and technologies for economic and social benefits to the society. When farmers and other end-users either do not know of or can not access the knowledge or technologies they require, they fail to harness the potential of these technologies for improvement of their livelihoods. In turn, when the results of research are not picked up and applied, the huge investments in generating them do not translate into any returns for the financiers – whether these are public or private – and do not result in any benefits to society. More fundamentally, failure to harness the knowledge, technologies and innovations undermines development and competitiveness.

What are we doing about it?

The lab2web initiative seeks to address problems of awareness, access, and knowledge sharing by developing a fully interactive web-based portal that will:

(a) Act as a depository for technologies and innovations that are either developed within African R&D institutes or developed globally but which could have relevance to Africa’s development.

(b) Create a platform for interactive learning and promote knowledge exchange on science, technology and innovation.

(c) Stimulate the emergence of new partnerships and collaborations by connecting people with similar interests (either in research or in its applications).

(d) Provide a knowledge bank and resource centre where actors can access publications, case studies, testimonies, videos, photos, documentaries as well as post comments, ask questions and get answers on practical issues affecting their businesses and projects

All users will be expected to register and not only to access the information but also share, learn and interact with other users. Users will download freely pdf files from the website for non-commercial use. This portal will be maintained and managed by the Scinnovent Centre but will be freely accessible to the public and in the long-term, anyone, anywhere in the world will able to add/upload information relevant to their regions subject to regulations/terms and conditions

How are we doing it?

The project is being piloted in Kenya, with potential replication/expansion to other countries. We began by conducting brainstorming sessions with key actors particularly the R&D actors and the end-users (representing the productive sector actors such as farmers, agribusiness actors, agro-processors, value addition companies and the demand sectors). These sessions discussed the challenges of getting R&D into the market, what needs to be done, the possible role of participatory social technologies and how the lab2web portal should be designed to best address the identified challenges. Suggestions from these sessions have been taken on board in the design of the portal to ensure its functionality, user-friendliness and applicability to the region.

As the portal is being developed, there’s on-going programme to survey the existing technologies and innovations in the research institutes, universities and other R&D centres in Kenya. This is being implemented with the support of researchers, technology/patent officers and extension officers in the selected R&D institutes and universities.

The innovations and technologies so identified shall be grouped into categories describing amongst other things: what problems they are intended to solve; where they can be found; who are contact persons; how much do they cost? This information shall then be coded into an interactive program where it can be retrieved and downloaded by any interested user. The design of the portal will incorporate all the issues coming out of the brainstorming sessions while taking on board all the issues that will ensure interactivity, functionality, ability to allow users to upload and download information.

When will it be available for public use?

We expect to launch the portal by the end of October 2015.

Project 2:  Tracking the Dream:

Financing Science, Technology and Innovation in Kenya

The problem and the rationale

Status: Ongoing

Science, technology and innovation have been recognized as the foundation of Kenya’s Vision 2030, upon which all the other pillars are erected. While this recognition is fundamental to the realization of the country’s target of becoming a middle-income economy by 2030, it is equally important that this declaration is followed keenly by action from the government (foremost), the private sector; development partners; the civil society and other stakeholders. This project seeks to review the main forms of support and stimulation for innovation being undertaken by the government (particularly) and the various players. The project will demonstrate the evolution and trends of the various forms of support in line with the government’s declarations and policy frameworks. By so doing, we hope to create a series of benchmarks and indicators against which to continually assess the government’s efforts towards realizing the 2030 dream.

In the absence of clarity on the type and forms of measures being undertaken to realize the dream, it becomes difficult to track progress and advise on policy changes required in order to attain the Vision.

We seek to:

  • Identify the various policy instruments/measures being employed by the government to finance science, technology and innovation towards attaining the Vision 2030
  • Review the extent of investment/application of these policy instruments since the Vision 2030 was formalized
  • Where possible, assess the impact so far, if any. For example, how many firms (local and foreign) have benefitted from taxation measures?
  • Assess the level of private sector response and uptake of the policy instruments
  • Based on the various policy instruments being applied (i.e. in force) as well as any planned, come up with a series of indicators for tracking progress in financing STI in Kenya

What is the scope of this project?

The project covers a variety of policy spheres/instruments including:

  1. Legislative and normative measures – the normative and legal regulation of innovation activities of firms form key tenets for encouraging entrepreneurial activity. The project is reviewing the various mechanisms for supporting innovation as enshrined in legislation, presidential decrees, cabinet resolutions; S&T policy and strategies and other programmes for economic development
  2. Role of the national government and county governments – the role of the State in financing R&D and innovation activities is paramount. This arises from the low private capital to innovation and R&D activities; the high risk nature of innovation and the uncertainty of the outcomes of the R&D and innovation projects. As the country transitions into a devolved structure, the role of the various county governments will become even more instructive
  3. The role of the national intellectual property office (KIPI) – The project is reviewing how the intellectual property office motivates innovation activities amongst firms (particularly SMEs) as well as individuals and research organizations. Of keen interest to this study is whether there are provisions for special rates for patent fees for SMEs/individuals/research institutes; or special fees for registration and legal protection of other forms of intellectual property
  4. Human capital formation – attaining the Vision 2030 will give rise to new requirements in the training of competent staff who are able to generate and apply new knowledge and make informed decisions. The project is reviewing trends in education on technical and natural specializations; training on innovation management, intellectual property law; commercialization of R&D products etc; re-training of specialists on areas such as innovation management, patenting etc
  5. Financing Innovation activities – it has been argued that high risks, lack of specificity and the difficulty in predicting the future income and expenditure for innovation projects makes financing innovation one of the weakest links in the innovation process. The project is assessing the various forms of financing available to private and public sector actors including: subsidies and grants for research; direct state financing of innovation projects; taxation privileges; special loans for innovation projects; special rules for depreciation charges; state guarantees for private investors etc
  6. State of the innovation infrastructure – this refers to the activities of all institutions, organizations, and firms offering direct and indirect support to innovation development. For purposes of this project, innovation infrastructure is understood to mean all the institutions making organizational, educational, consulting, information, material, technical and other services for the functioning of innovation-oriented enterprises. Some of the infrastructural components include: science and technology parks; innovation business incubation centres; innovation technology centres; technology transfer centres etc
  7. The state of the information infrastructure – information and knowledge form the most important components of an innovation-driven economy. This infrastructure is dependent on the state information system as provided by the scientific and technical libraries, intellectual property offices, academic and regional centres of scientific and technical information, commercial information and consulting centres. Important information is also provided through exhibitions and innovation shows.
  8. The state of indicators for innovation – in Kenya, as in many other developing countries, statistical data relating to innovation are fragmentary and dispersed amongst the different sources thus significantly hampering the possibility of research into the momentum/state of innovation processes, level of innovation activities of enterprises, monitoring of the innovation market, definition of indicators for scientific and technical activities and international benchmarking for innovation
  9. Interactions between the government, university and scientific research with industry and businesses – research has shown that the government is most effective in the creation of fundamental knowledge, while applied research is developed most rationally and used in structures functioning on the basis of private property. This project is assessing the development of partnerships between scientific and university organizations on the one hand and industry and entrepreneurship structures on the other using indicators such as the number of partnerships between scientific institutions and entrepreneurial bodies, partnerships between universities and industry etc

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