Kenya could have its first Innovation Academy if a proposal being considered by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is accepted by the Government and other stakeholders.
The idea, a result of an elaborate four-day visit (June 28 to July 2, 2010), to the University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, by a group University dons, could see the country’s research and innovation activities get a boost.
The three visiting dons were: Dr. Joseph Muliaro Wafula-Director ICT and Senior Lecturer Department of Computing and leader of the delegation; Prof. Kamau Ngamau, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Associate Professor Department of Horticulture; and Ms. Agnes Naliaka Mindila, Lecturer, Department of Computing and a finalist PhD student.
The visit was initiated by an invitation by the Kenyan Embassy in Ireland to the JKUAT through the office of the Vice Chancellor. It was also a follow-up on issues discussed during the VC’s visit to UCD last year.
On the first day, the team participated in Intetrade Ireland 2010 Innovation Conference held at the University and on the following day had the privilege of being hosted by Dr. Pat Frain, Director, NovaUCD. NovaUCD is a hub of knowledge transfer activities at UCD and a national leader in the commercialization of research and the development of new hi-tech enterprises with a strong international reputation.
NovaUCD centre hosts 33 companies in the area of biofuel, ICT, diagnostics, biomolecular and biomedical science, renewal energy, biosystems, chemistry, finance, electronics and genetics. Its success is attributed to its initial public-private partnership involving AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx. These initial sponsors invested over 11 million Euros in NovaUCD, now seven years old.
NovaUCD offers courses to structured PhD programme on starting a business and on commercialization of Intellectual Property. UCD fosters and rewards innovation amongst UCD staff through inclusion of innovation as a criterion for promotion.
NovaUCD’s support for innovation and knowledge transfer is built on four key areas namely; managing technology transfer, incubating start-up companies, promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and building partnerships.
The centre is responsible for identification, protection and commercialization of IP arising from UCD research. All inventions, software and other UCD IP that have commercial potential must be disclosed through NovaUCD using the Invention Disclosure Form. Subsequently, UCD shares royalty and other income earned from commercialization of IP with the creators of the IP based on a specific scale.
Impressed by the huge potential of IP commercialization, JKUAT is considering selling the idea of an Innovation Academy to the Ministry of Industrialisation; Higher Education, Science and Technology; National Council for Science and Technology; Communications Commission of Kenya; ICT Board; Safaricom; Inter University Council of East Africa; among others to fund it.
The UCD hosts recommended that JKUAT benchmarks on NovaUCD to align its IP policy and procedures with its reviewed commercialization process. JKUAT is also to develop a clear scale of sharing royalties and incomes earned from commercialization of IP with the creator of the IP.
Kenya’s Vision 2030 expects universities to lead in knowledge intensive innovations and spearhead industrialization. JKUAT being one of the leading institutions is working on collaboration with UCD in its drive to contribute towards realization of this noble national goal.
by Sammy Cheboi