The 3rd Kenya National Science Technology and Innovation week held from 19th to 23rd May, 2014 focused on the theme “Science, Technology and Innovation as a catalyst for Industrial Growth in Kenya.” This was befitting considering that Kenya’s development blueprint – The Kenya Vision 2030 – envisages a phenomenal transformation of Kenya into a newly industrialized middle income country that will offer better quality life to all its citizens. One of the ways to achieve this is through supporting and encouraging innovations that will improve lives, create jobs and fast-track our economic growth. In the past, Kenyan researchers have conducted numerous interesting and ground-breaking studies but unfortunately, the findings have rarely been translated to products of commercial or social value. Unarguably, it is time to shift from a paradigm that emphasizes research (whose outputs may never be used) to one that emphasizes the application of knowledge, whether generated through research or experience i.e. innovation
In a joint presentation, Dr. Maurice Bolo (Director The Scinnovent Centre) and Dr. Ellie Osir (Senior Programme Specialist IDRC) emphasized the need to shift the thinking in our universities from research to innovation. In their presentation, knowledge was singled out as the new motor in economic development in the emerging knowledge societies.
They further acknowledged that the context for science, technology and innovation (STI) is fast-changing from the traditional policy of just being concerned with creation of new knowledge to emphasizing more on application and exploitation of knowledge for economic and social development. Consequently, STI needs both methodological and organizational change to appropriately respond to the changing context. This shift calls for participatory problem identification and priority setting as well as flexible learning organizations as opposed to the bureaucratic organizations we have had in the past.
In light of this shift, it is prudent and highly imperative to have a labor force with extreme expertise to promote STI for development. Hence, the NACOSTI/IDRC University Research Chairs Programme. This programme is focused on enhancing Kenya’s competitiveness in innovation by ensuring the Research Chairs will:
- Improve the institutional environment in our universities towards attaining research excellence and fostering creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship
- Improve the research infrastructure through investment in laboratory equipment and machines
- Provide skilled and highly trained manpower into the labor market through postgraduate training
- Leverage financial support to research from private sector and other financial institutions to support university research and training
- Create active linkages with private sector to ensure that knowledge created in the universities respond to the needs of the productive sectors
In reference to the book ‘Re-thinking Science’ the speakers emphasized the need to re-think our approaches to STI by shifting from linear to systemic science in order to achieve industrial transformation in Kenya.
This post was contributed by Vivian Otieno from The Scinnovent Centre