Globally, institutions of Higher Education have been criticized of being ivory towers, distant from the interests of their communities. To dispel this notion, the Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI) domiciled at JKUAT, launched a Ksh. 10 Million Incubation Center of Excellence dubbed PAUSTI CoE.
The center, financed by the African Development Bank and developed by i-Hub seeks to accelerate research and development in the application of technology to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the continent.
According to the PAUSTI Director, Prof. Gabriel Magoma the state-of-the-art innovation hub will engage academics, students, private sector and researchers to enhance the applied research capability of the institution.
“The key performance indicator of the Incubation Center of Excellence will be a pool of strong networks and partnerships with the private and public sectors and we look forward to the creation of high impact start-ups and spin-offs from the centre that will transform livelihoods in the continent,” elucidated Prof. Magoma.
Congratulating PAUSTI for the launch of the Centre, JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi said she was confident the Centre will play a major role in providing solutions and innovations for the challenges identified in Agenda 2063.
“Pan African University (PAU) understands first-hand the need to bridge the gap among academia, Africa’s labour market and the private sector in order for Africa to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where technology driven innovations are of great importance,” said Prof. Ngumi.
She further noted that the Incubation Centre of Excellence will play a significant role of linking PAUSTI postgraduate students with relevant stakeholders and private sector actors.
“This Centre will be instrumental in enhancing the role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) as it will also serve as a reference point for similar approaches across the African continent, and we are delighted to take the lead in this particular respect,” said Prof Ngumi.
So far, the Centre has innovations in the areas of Biotechnology and Mechatronic Engineering which are awaiting fine-tuning and deployment to the market.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, five PAUSTI Postgraduate students developed an automatic hand washing machine with sensors for dispensing soap, water and measuring temperature, a fate that the Vice Chancellor said showed the students innovative knack.
Echoing the Vice chancellor, Prof. Magoma said “I wish to assure you that our students are some of the smartest in Africa and if their energies are properly channeled, we shall develop products and services to enhance economic growth to the benefit of the entire continent.”
Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, i-Hub, Mr. Bosun Tijan lauded the launch of the Centre saying with true collaboration from academia, private and public sectors, PAUSTI will be in the forefront in finding indigenous solutions to the challenges facing the continent.
“Innovation is a prerequisite of economic development and through innovation we can build a more prosperous Africa and create opportunities for our people,” said Mr. Tijan.
Acknowledging that the Centre will play a critical role in the commercialisation of African innovation, Ms. Oyoyo Edosio of African Development Bank Group said she has a strong conviction that innovation should be at the heart of academia and research and should be linked to the market for the betterment of society.
Mr. Evans Atambo who represented Kenya’s Ministry of Education said, the Centre will give the students a chance to play an active role in actualization of the continent’s development blueprint – Africa Agenda 2063.
“It is gratifying to note that we are encouraging the students to be job creators who through their innovations and start-ups will leave a positive impact and better the continent,” said Mr. Atambo.
The Centre is tailored to host several activities including designing thinking workshops, innovation challenges, hackathons, entrepreneurship master classes, career fairs, incubation programs, excursion to companies, investor demo days and meet-ups with private sector partners.