In a bid to unlock the full potential of students’ innovations, universities in Kenya have received a noteworthy challenge: to forge partnerships with industry players. This collaborative effort, as proposed by KCA University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof Vincent Onywera, aims to breathe life into the innovative ideas that often remain untapped within the academic institutions.
It’s a tale as old as academia itself: students pouring their hearts and minds into groundbreaking innovations, only to see their efforts languish in obscurity. Prof Onywera’s plea to address this issue is not without reason. Failing to bridge the gap between academic ingenuity and industry applications could result in missed opportunities for both universities and the nation.
This clarion call to action resonated at the annual Innovation Week and Industry Summit held at the University Main Campus in Ruaraka. The event provided a platform for local and international innovators, exhibitors, and researchers to converge, bringing together over 2000 participants. It was a melting pot of ideas, creativity, and untapped potential.
Prof Onywera remarked, “We have several enterprising innovations at our universities yet to hit the markets for failure to commercialize them. We need to link the young innovators with the industry to not only market their products but also improve on their skills.” This sentiment reflects the need for universities to play a pivotal role in nurturing and promoting these innovative ideas.
The University is already taking tangible steps to support these budding innovators through an operational Research Fund. This fund is designed to provide financial support, spur innovation, and catalyze research activities, ensuring that innovative ideas are not only born but also put into practice. There are already success stories, like a tele-app developed by one student who received support from the fund.
Moreover, students like Alvin Ekada and Hope Wanjeri, studying Software Engineering and Software Development, respectively, have shown the incredible potential that lies within academic institutions. Ekada’s business plan revolves around improving Healthcare Accessibility and Outcomes, while Wanjeri has created a Health management system that utilizes Near-Field Communication (NFC) cards to store patient health records. Their innovative approaches exemplify the kind of ideas that, with the right support, can revolutionize various sectors.
The call for collaboration extends beyond academia, with industry leaders like Andrew Musila, head of innovations at Safaricom, encouraging more industry players to mentor and provide expertise to student innovators. Safaricom, for instance, is committed to offering thought leadership and necessary technology to help these young innovators turn their dreams into reality.