STI as Frontline Force in Response to COVID-19

From left; Dr. Kinyuru, Prof. Ikua, Prof. Abukutsa and Chair of the Organizing Committee, Dr. Shadrack Muya during the opening session of the conference

Investment in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is essential for economic development and social wellbeing of society. This is according to Director General, National Commission for Science, Technology & Innovation, Prof. Walter Oyawa.

He said research was an enabler of STI and that there was need for academia and research institutes to increase investment in research of STI for the betterment of society.

Prof. Oyawa, who was the Chief Guest during the 15th JKUAT Scientific, Technological and Innovation Conference, said although the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the globe taking its toll on the research ecosystem, he was impressed by the increase in Research and Development (R&D) and innovation efforts in developing vaccines, diagnostics and treatment.

“Covid-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the vital role of Science, Technology and Innovation to mitigate the virus while at the same time cushioning the impact of the scourge on households,” attested Prof. Oyawa.

Acknowledging that the pandemic is here to stay, the Director General urged researchers to think outside the box and leverage on emerging technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and robotics, to keep the economy and society operational during the pandemic.

He implored on the university researchers in collaboration with peers across the globe to take center stage and guide the adoption of technologies in the fight against COVID-19 saying, “our institutions such as JKUAT, will need an advance digital framework to keep pace with the pandemic by initiating a systematic approach to digital transformation.”

Prof. Oyawa/Photo Courtesy

To be effective, Prof. Oyawa however conceded that infrastructure development, technology transfer in both public and private R&D need to be nurtured and regulated through effective STI policies.

“The need for institution collaboration is extremely important. These collaborations should be multi-disciplinary and utilize a quadruple helix approach, engaging the government, university, industry and civil society,” said the Director General.

Echoing the Chief Guest, Vice Chancellor Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, said as the globe enters the unchartered territory brought about by the pandemic, universities and research institutions need to reinvigorate research and innovation.

“We need to innovate, reach out to new partners, re-engage and build synergies across the board.  If we can pull together and generate renewed momentum in the areas of physical, medical and social sciences, agriculture, environment and technology, we can reignite passion and the zeal for research and innovation, hence, achieve sustainable development for our countries,” said Prof. Ngumi in a speech read by Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bernard Ikua.

On the conference, Prof. Ngumi said, it is an important event in JKUAT’s academic calendar and serves as a rich opportunity for researchers and scholars to share their findings with peers and other stakeholders, both nationally and internationally.

“I implore on you to effectively and efficiently present and interrogate one another’s paper. Let us be aware that we are indeed addressing felt needs identified in the society. Keep in mind that each of the papers being presented in this forum is a testimony of commitment and hard work by the scholars involved,” Prof. Ngumi told the gathering.

On her part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa said for science and research to make an impact, there must be synergy between basic, applied, economic and social science to help leverage the developed technologies and effective communication to the public.

“The conference gives an avenue to disseminate the research outputs to all stakeholders and provides an opportunity for multi-disciplinary interaction as evidenced by the diversity of the subthemes,” said Prof. Abukutsa.

The conference being held virtually, March 25-26, 2021, in strict observance of the COVID – 19 containment measures, attracted stakeholders from academia, government and private sector to discuss a wide range of issues aimed at refocusing research, innovation and entrepreneurship for excellence in higher education in the era of COVID-19.

JKUAT researcher hard at work

“The theme, Refocusing Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Excellence in Higher Education in the Era of COVID-19 resonates well with the JKUAT vision of being a University of global excellence in training, research, innovation and entrepreneurship for development,” said Dr. John Kinyuru, the Director, Research.

The conference attracted over 260 participants from over 15 countries namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zanzibar, Cameroon, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Finland, Ethiopia, UK, Mauritania and USA.

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