By Amb Oded Joseph
Innovation cross-pollination is a concept borrowed from botany. Here, two or more flowers mix pollen to produce a hybrid fruit. In the case of technology, cross-pollination refers to the transfer of ideas between two or more parties with different backgrounds, for better or hybrid innovations.
In recent years, technological development in different fields across the world has continued to make lives better. In addition, the existing and arising challenges globally call for urgent and better interventions requiring both expertise and timely innovation.
Many countries in the world are currently building or advancing their technology industries. To achieve this, focus should be directed towards developing hybrid solutions for different challenges. There is a need for government support to nurture innovation cross-pollination together with stakeholders drawn from both national and international spheres.
For instance, when Apple Company conducted a cross-pollination programme with running kits developer Nike, the two companies developed the Apple Watch Nike+, which has become an ultimate running partner for athletes around the globe. It is a concept that was born from a cross-pollination exercise between a tech giant and sports apparel company, and has now become a great solution for millions of individuals worldwide.
The success story of Israel as a start-up nation was built on the need to address acute challenges of physical security (hostile neighbours) and food security (lack of water and arable land). From a foundation of daring to fail in order to succeed, we do not fear failure.
Kenya and Israel have a lot in common, noting the presence of innovation hubs and resilient youthful innovators. I believe that chances of creating better solutions for common challenges such as cyber security and agriculture are certain. For this to happen, a good environment must be created by organisations in both Kenya and Israel to advance the tech industry.
Israel has continually progressed in innovation, according to statistics issued by the Global Innovation Index. We hope to close the disparity gap among nations through knowledge sharing using the cross-pollination concept.
Israel continues to offer mentorship for start-ups and seeks ways to directly collaborate with innovation hubs through training and capacity building.
A cross-pollination initiative with Kenya will definitely create a win-win situation, providing an enabling environment for young Kenyan innovators and their Israeli counterparts to learn from each other.
Looking at Kenya’s tech industry, the environment for partnerships and collaborations has already been set. What needs to be done is to rally behind organisations, innovators and other international partners to create and participate in cross-pollination programmes.
We are proud that Konza Technopolis Development Authority, in partnership with the Embassy of Israel in Nairobi, is running the Konza Innovation Challenge, which is focusing on development of innovations around smart parking, smart asset management and traffic management. This is in line with Konza’s plan to be a global innovation hub. These hybrid solutions will be utilised to power the smart city.
The initiative follows an agri-fair involving the Embassy of Israel and Embu County in January this year. The event brought together stakeholders from agriculture and energy fields. Such initiatives have also enhanced the development of a strong innovation culture in Kenya.
Data from the Bloomberg Innovation Index report of 2021 ranked Israel at position seven in innovation competitiveness, given the country’s various cross-pollination projects in medicine, agriculture and cyber security.
We look forward to learning a lot from this innovation challenge while accelerating efforts towards advancing tech development between Kenya and Israel.
There is also the need for organisations to cross-pollinate innovation policies and strategies that can spur Kenya’s tech space as we focus on ideas for fresh start-ups.
Among Israel’s major secrets in maintaining an edge in technology in the international space is collaborations with the academia, which largely nurture breeding of new innovations. Spearheaded by the Israel Innovation Authority, the academia creates a culture that goes beyond generations.
As Microsoft’s Bill Gates once said, power comes not from knowledge kept, but from knowledge shared. With nations ahead in innovations sharing knowledge with the rest, the technology disparity will be minimised. Similarly, the tech industry will greatly benefit from such concepts and partnerships.
The writer is the Ambassador of Israel to Kenya