First Biopolymer Research Centre for the Region

Plans are underway to establish a Biopolymer Centre in JKUAT to serve as a research hub in Africa to tap into the emerging multimillion industry that has promised to open numerous industrial opportunities to advance Africa’s economic development. Biopolymers are gaining increased utilization in industry that promises to boost productivity particularly in the agricultural and health sectors.

As a prelude, the first International Biopolymer Workshop in Africa opened at JKUAT, Sunday January 27, 2013 bringing together over 50 participants drawn from various countries of Africa, Europe and North America to review current advancements in biopolymer research.

The three day workshop, jointly organized by JKUAT, US based Harvard Kennedy School and the Slovenian Centre of Excellence PoliMaT (CEPoliMaT), is also expected to come up with strategies to foster increased science and technology cooperation among research players in the world.

Among the participants comprising policy makers and professionals from the agricultural industry in Kenya, are 32 JKUAT students who will be equipped with requisite skills to enable them identify research topics relevant to industry in Kenya. The consultations are also primed to identify industrial and international partners engaged in the enterprise of biopolymer research.

The opening session was addressed by a number of prominent researchers and policy makers drawn from Slovenia, the United States and Kenya. Mr. Iztok Grmek, head of Bilateral Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia emphasized his country’s commitment to research and development which he said was crucial in promoting his country’s commercial interests.

The Slovenian official further pledged his government commitment to provide the necessary support to PoliMaT –JKUAT Biopolymer initiative ‘in a bid to commercialize the results of effective work’

Ms. Mateja Dermastia, CEPoliMaT Managing Director, told the forum, the initiative was a culmination of three years of concerted effort involving various teams linking industry and science to make plastics more sustainable. The official added, the new biopolymer project to be located at JKUAT targets to cover the entire COMESA region.

And the renowned Harvard Kennedy School based Kenyan scholar, Prof. Calastous Juma, one of the founding member of the initiative; emphasized the importance of scientific and technological knowledge which he predicted would be the backbone of ‘ long-term economic transformation of nations’

‘In effect, economic transformation is not just a narrow economic act, but a diplomatic effort involving nations across the world. The world is indeed entering the age of international science and technology diplomacy, where hitherto differentially perceived countries are finding themselves working together to solve some of the world’s challenging economic, social and ecological problems’, Prof. Juma said.

Welcoming the participants, Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga pledged JKUAT’s total commitment to the initiative saying her university had heavily invested in applied research and innovation, that had produced encouraging results. She cited the location at JKUAT of the Pan African University, Institute of Basic Sciences Technology and Innovation which JKUAT won through a competitive bid based mainly on its strong track record and orientation in applied research and innovation.