Kenya Innovation Week: The what, why and how of the inaugural national event

The official opening ceremony of the 2017 Nairobi Innovation week, hosted at the University of Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya is set to host a national innovation week. The closest the country has come to experiencing such a significant event is during the times of the once disruptive Nairobi Innovation Week.

The inaugural Kenya Innovation Week (KIW) marks a landmark achievement in enhancing the country’s innovation ecosystem.

Ranked at position 85 in the 2021 Global Innovation Index, Kenya has to rise and salvage the innovation ecosystem before it reaches its rigor mortis. We have to consolidate efforts by all the ecosystem players and synergise to realise the long dream of an exclusively innovative country, otherwise referred to as the Silicon Savannah.

The foundation of innovative countries is how well the Intellectual Property gets converted into socio-economic value. This can be influenced by how well the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) identifies, records, protects, and nurtures innovative ideas.

The innovation agency cannot work in a silo. It has to build partnerships to develop relevant capacities to enable the innovation systems to thrive.

Under the theme, Innovativeness of Kenyans, the inaugural Kenya Innovation Week coordinated by KeNIA is scheduled to run on December 6-10, 2021 at the Kenya School of Government in Lower Kabete, Nairobi. It has the prospects of advancing the national priorities of the Big 4 Agenda, Vision 2030, AU Agenda 2063 and the UN SDGs.

There has been a positive response by the ecosystem players towards this inaugural event, some of which have organised and run related pre-events leading up to this innovation showpiece. Up until now, at least 20 pre-events, including boot camps, innovation camps, workshops, webinars, hackathons and start-up challenges, have been held across the country.

Some of the notable events are the JKUAT tech expo; Zetech University’s 3rd Sustainable Innovation Conference; UK Tech Hub’s webinar on innovations around CBC; University of Eldoret Innovation Week; Meru University Innovation Week; NACOSTI’s 2021 Science Technology and Innovation Conference; Kenyatta University’s University-Industry Conference; Kisii University’s 2021 Innovation workshop; Co-operative University of Kenya Innovation Week; and the Mount Kenya Innovation Week, scheduled to take place across three counties in the region.

The need to improve the country’s innovation ecosystem is inevitable. The Kenya Innovation Week 2021 is expected to achieve this by convening the local governments, private sector, development partners, the media and civil society, to capitalise on as much shared value as possible. This is a movement towards creating our future today. Even though the first edition might not be very big, the subsequent ones should attract participation from all the county governments and the private sector.

Delegates

The national event is expected to attract over 10,000 in-person and virtual delegates, both domestic and foreign. Targeting a very large audience, KIW has attracted delegates, ranging from innovators, start-ups, investors, academia, the private sector, government agencies, development partners and the civil society.

Thousands of students are eager to increase their capacity. Entrepreneurs and business owners are looking for innovative solutions to their businesses, as innovators look to network and get support for their innovations.

Both local and foreign investors are hunting for solutions to invest in, while government officials and agencies are keen to guide innovators and understand the gaps needed to further improve the innovation ecosystem.

The call for delegates is still ongoing and one can grab a ticket at https://kenyainnovationweek.com/tickets

Exhibitions

The Kenya Innovation Week exhibitions will also see diverse players of the national innovation system showcase their solutions. The exhibition booths that have been strategically mapped out will have three categories.

The corporates section will see corporate organisations such as Huawei, GIZ, Kenya Airways, and Fingo Powerbank, among others, showcase their stuff.

The universities, research institutions and government agencies section will have major Kenyan universities, research institutions such as KEMRI and KALRO, and other government entities like the Kenya National Qualification Authority, Konza Technopolis, KEBS, GDC, KASNEB and others, exhibit.

Finally, the start-ups section will host an array of Kenyan start-up companies, including the beneficiaries of KeNIA’s National Innovation Awards and Leaders in Innovation Fellowship. Kenyans attending virtually will not miss out on the exhibitions as the booths will also be showcased virtually.

Start-ups

In addition to bagging the most strategic locations for exhibiting, start-ups will have special programmes during the Start-up Kenya Summit. One of these programmes will be a pitching session, which will run on December 8. The pitch fest will feature innovators from several programmes, including the National Innovation Award, the GESA competition that focuses on EdTech start-ups, Villgro Africa healthcare challenge, and start-ups from GIZ’s Water and Energy for Food programme. The sessions will also see investors give their views on the pitches.

What it means for Kenya

The KIW 2021 will mark the beginning of a movement that will champion for relevant policy engagements on innovations within institutions while promoting practical skills necessary to create innovations that impact people.

It will inspire policies for uplifting SMEs and lead to the increase of start-ups in Kenya. In addition, Kenya Innovation Week will strengthen the research and commercialisation practices for greater socio-economic impact.

With over 139 local and international speakers lined up, the Kenya Innovation Week is set to advance conversations around Skills and Talents for Innovation, on which the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is anchored. Further, KIW will prioritise issues around Technology and 4th Industrial Revolution, Commercialisation of Research and Start-up support. The inaugural Kenya Innovation Week will be graced by Hon Joe Mucheru, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Youth and Innovation.

Article authored by Lawrence Otieno, Phyllis Njoki, and George Masila

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