Kenyan universities have for a long time been criticized for failing to produce novel products and ideas that could be tapped to spur socio-economic growth and development. The challenge in Kenya’s innovation-development nexus has partly been attributed to the weak linkage between academia and the industry.
To bridge this gap, Africa-ai-Japan project organised a University-Industry Linkages workshop that brought together over 40 industry players and academicians to deliberate on what needs to be done to enhance the linkage.
Eng. Bernard Ngore, Managing Director Kenya Motors Repairers Association, besought the academia to align their curriculum with the industry requirement saying, the industry operates in an environment that demands new and constantly developing skills to retain global competitiveness.
He alluded to the often rigidness of university curriculum and said “it is imperative to ascertain how best the academic curriculum can address various requirements and demands of the dynamic industry. Most of the industry players if not all, believe that innovations and research from our university are not useful to them.”
Mr. Paul Arunga, Site Director, Glaxo Smithkline East Africa Limited said for the industry-academia linkages to be effective, it needs a tripartite approach where the government is involved.
He further explained that a lot of industry decisions are informed by government policies and urged the parties present, especially academia, to find a way to engage the government during policy formulation.
Mr. David Ndwiga of Kenya Electricity Transmission Company said universities do a lot of research and develop plenty of innovations that the industries can tap into. However, they need to package them well.
“It would be great to see the industry coming forward and working exclusively with the researchers and post-graduate students to create and develop solutions that are specific to their challenges,” opined Mr. Ndwiga.
According to him, timely and deliberate exposure to the industry will provides a much-needed experience to both the researchers and students to establish what the industry needs and solve the challenges facing the country.
Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of Academic Affairs, Prof. Robert Kinyua urged both the industry and academia to engage transparently and help develop, improve and revise the curriculum in accordance to the needs of the industry.
“If we link up and effectively do this, the industry will stop pointing fingers to the academia saying that we produce half-baked graduates,” said Prof. Kinyua who is also the Africa-ai-Japan Project Director.
On her part, Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa said there was need to form a consortium that will allow all parties including the government to have formal engagements. She expressed confident that the consortium would be useful in translating the research and innovations being churned out of the universities into viable solutions that will steer the development agenda of this country.
AFRICA ai-JAPAN Project is a tripartite agreement between Government of Japan, African Union Commission (AUC) and Government of Kenya, initiated in June 2014, with the objective to strengthen the research and innovation capacity of JKUAT towards successful implementation of the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI).