What you need to know:
- From design and manufacturing to ICT, the science complex is one of two that the government plans to establish.
- The first being the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology at the Konza Technopolis.
The Science and Technology Park at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, DeKUT, is finally taking shape, promising to transform the institution into a top centre for specialised training for scientists and engineers.
With construction ongoing and several companies already having set up base at the park, the Sh5 billion project will be the first of its kind in a university in the country.
From design and manufacturing to ICT, the science complex is one of two that the government plans to establish, the first being the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology at the Konza Technopolis.
The ICT hub, whose operations have already kicked off, primarily focuses on applications and software in support of the agro-tech sector and developing collaborations with other investors at the park.
Design and manufacturing focuses on mechanisation of agriculture, robotics and mechatronics. Here, the investors will also focus on manufacturing of semiconductors, circuits and chips used in electronic devices. President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the semiconductor company last week.
The food and bio-resources will focus on innovation in research and development and commercialisation of a wide range of bio-resources and value addition on agricultural products.
The university will oversee all activities in the park including bringing international companies to invest in the park and guiding the students in the university to come up with innovations.
The idea of the Science and Technology Park (STP) was born in 2016, but the actual ground work kicked off last year. The vice chancellor, Prof Ndirangu Kioni, likened the park to Silicon Valley which started as an STP park for Stanford University, eventually leading to the birth of global technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, among other companies.
So far, the university has signed contracts with four companies with three having brought their equipment into the park while one has already started operations.
“At the moment, we are in discussions with a number of companies that are interested in investing in the park,” says Prof Kioni.
So far, the roads within the park are in place, so is power, water and sewerage connection including internet connectivity.
“Construction is being done in collaboration with the government and private sector. We hope that by the end of the year, we will have all the critical services fully operational,” he said.
The park has been championed by the university as a facility that will provide skillful training to the students within the school as well as boost local technology. It also aims to create a bridge between academics and the industry.
Research and development
“We are a university of technology, we focus on knowledge and finding use for technology. Working with the industries ensures a smooth transition from class to industry. The university’s academic staff will also collaborate with factories in research and development and innovations. Our students will also have an opportunity to undertake research in these areas with an aim to advance their industrial experience and to come up with commercially viable ideas,” he added, further describing the facility as a catalyst for development and transformation, saying that the park will bring in a wave of development projects.
The professor foresees that as more businesses move into the park, other investors in housing, the hospitality industry, schools, and hospitals will also set up base at the facility.
“The science park will not only benefit our students, but the community at large because when investors move in, they will hire local people and buy what they need locally. Besides, they will move to the area with their families who will need schools, hospitals, proximity to markets and supermarkets, bringing about a second wave of development around the university and Nyeri as a whole,” he added.
So far, DeKUT has recruited five academic staff with doctorate qualification as part of a programme that will see them work with technicians at the semiconductor factory. Another 20 post-graduate students have been recruited in the science and engineering programmes. They will focus on science and nanoscience research projects.
“It is about changing how we do things and build our capacity to generate good ideas and nurture them to become innovations which can be developed further to become startup companies,” Prof Kioni explained.
The factory will be a producer of semiconductors, tiny chips that control the most critical functions of any electronic apparatus including phones, laptops, computers and tablets.