The projects supported by the ACP Innovation Fund are starting to produce tangible results. This is an opportunity to take a look at their results at the half-way stage.
Let us recall the context of their interventions. In a rapidly changing world, research and innovation (R&I) are recognised by the 79 member countries of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) as essential drivers of sustainable development. R&I can provide evidence for decision-making, create actionable knowledge, find innovative solutions to pressing challenges (climate change, food, energy and water insecurity, epidemics, etc.), accelerate growth and the green transition, and reduce poverty. But for these outputs to be deployed at a faster pace, on a larger scale and with a greater impact where they are most needed, there needs to be a radical change in the way they are brought into practice and financed.
Too often, researchers, academics, public bodies, businesses,,and non-governmental and civil society organisations work in silos, which limits their potential to innovate and respond to society’s real needs. All too often, mobilising adequate resources for R&I efforts remains a challenge (less than 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is allocated to R&D in many ACP countries). The products of research and innovation are still insufficiently protected (e.g. Africa held 0.2% of the world’s patents in 2018 – African Academy of Sciences, AAS) and insufficiently exploited, although there have been some notable successes, particularly in Africa, in sectors such as mobile banking, renewable energies, health technologies and sustainable agribusinesses.
This context makes the 12 projects financed by the ACP Innovation Fund all the more important. Along with more than 70 third-party projects, they are implementing concrete solutions on the ground to foster an environment conducive to R&I and boost innovation. And they have already achieved some interesting results.
Improved understanding of research and innovation ecosystems
- More than thirty maps, studies and publications have been produced, including, among others: a better understanding of the players, results and needs of research and innovation in certain countries (Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, the state of R&I for sustainable development in Cameroon and the DRC); an assessment of the ecosystems of digital technologies used in agriculture in 5 West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria); an identification of the stakeholders who need to be engaged in promoting the One Health approach in 11 countries in East and Southern Africa; a better understanding of the factors that determine the non-use of Intellectual Property Rights and the low level of exploitation of the results of Research and Innovation; and a gender mainstreaming training manual for agriculture, identifying local and indigenous knowledge capable of producing solutions adapted to local realities.
Building the capacity of R&I players
- More than 10,000 people have received training (face-to-face and online) on a wide range of topics: intellectual protection, promoting the results of R&I, setting up and managing businesses, environmental professions and technologies, using digital tools, One Health concepts, improving agricultural practices, etc.
- 150 entrepreneurs and innovators are incubated in a wide range of sectors (agriculture, agri-food, health, cosmetics, green construction, energy, waste management and recovery, etc.). Some of them are already benefiting from seed funding or finances for the development of prototypes (e.g. household ovens and a 50m-long road made from local materials -replacing bitumen-, a smart classroom, etc.).A dozen learning centres or platforms have been set up to accelerate the transfer of knowledge (including 8 model farms).
Encouraging synergies between different R&I players
- 13 innovation and technology transfer spaces have been created (Fab labs, incubators, etc.) to accelerate innovation.
Protecting and promoting R&I results
- A dozen digital applications and other digital tools have been developed for a wide range of uses: improved access to markets for agricultural products or to funding, better detection and management of pests and invasive plants, soil mapping, marketing of plant-based medicines, etc. They could be adapted and replicated in other countries and regions.
- 50 innovations are in the process of being patented by the African Intellectual Property Organisation.
The coming months will see further results from the projects (e.g. creation of new patents and companies, start-ups or service providers generating direct employment, etc.). The OACPS R&I Programme, of which the ACP Innovation Fund is one of its components, encourages regional and even international cooperation between R&I players and projects working on the same themes, and strong public-private partnerships to accelerate technology and skills transfers, to set up inclusive and effective R&I ecosystems, and to establish sustainable mechanisms for exploiting R&I results.