Kenya: towards a more coordinated and well-functioning Research and Innovation ecosystem

As a result of the OACPS R&I Policy Support Facility service in Kenya, two sets of guidelines were officially presented during the Kenya Innovation Week (KIW) to effectively manage the country’s rapidly growing network of innovation hubs and enhance commercialisation of R&D outputs. 

The presentation – in hybrid mode- of the guidelines on 8 December 2022, during the Kenya Innovation Week (KIW) in Nairobi, marked the end of the seven-month mission of the OACPS R&I Policy Support Facility (PSF) in Kenya. This event was attended by around 200 national R&I stakeholders, including directors of research centres and university rectors.

This PSF service was requested by the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) and carried out by a panel of 4 high-level experts, chaired by Prof. Tom Ogada.

In a video message addressed to the participants, Dr. Ibrahim Norbert Richard, Assistant Secretary General of the Secretariat of the OACPS reminded how important it is “ to provide adequate support to innovators to unleash their talent, help them develop homegrown solutions with maximum impact in terms of job creation and societal benefits.”

While Mr. Thierry Barbé, Head of Unit Science Technology Innovation and Digitalisation at the European Commission (International Partnerships) underlined that the clarification of concepts and terminology on innovation hubs will not only be “useful in the fluid and dynamic Kenyan context. This effort may become a regional benchmark for the benefit of other countries”.

During the session, Prof. Ogada also highlighted some key aspects related to these guidelines and their implementation:

1/for the coordination of innovation hubs:

To better manage the innovation hubs, that have mushroomed rapidly across the country over the last five years from a few hubs to over 200. The guidelines provide advice on how to define business start-ups and various types of innovation hubs, incentivise registration of new innovation hubs, set standardised services and support mechanism and assess their impact through performance indicators. The aim is to get information and evidence to better guide government action and support, link innovation hubs with national priorities, and attract targeted investments for better impact.

2/for a better commercialisation of R&D outputs:

The guidelines have been provided at national, institutional and researcher levels.

While national policy formulation is long-term (including national policies/strategies on technology transfer and commercialization, or intellectual property, coordination of government agencies responsible for innovation and commercialisation, and creation of an Innovation Fund), some interventions have been suggested in the short-term under the leadership of KeNIA to promote commercialisation. These interventions include notably the strengthening of Public-Private partnerships in research and commercialisation and the awareness raising of researchers on Intellectual property and commercialisation.

The guidelines on commercialisation of R&D outputs were also presented during the Commercialisation and Entrepreneurial institutions Leaders (CEIL) Summit held in Mombasa (Kenya) on 1 December.

On his side, the CEO of KeNIA (Dr. Tonny K. Omwansa) announced that their implementation had already started, through among other things, a pilot programme including 5 Universities and Research Centers, to enable at a later stage their operationalisation at a national level.

Launched in January 2021, the Policy Support Facility is one of the components of the OACPS Research and Innovation Programme, implemented by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and funded by the European Union (EU) to unlock innovation potential in the 79 OACPS member countries.