Columnists

Innovation and research are key drivers of growth

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The Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved by the assiduous application of scientific knowledge to solve problems. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In keeping with the global dynamic times and with the digital revolution at our doorsteps disrupting every sector, the higher education sector has not been spared either and we must adjust too.

Globally and regionally, the sector continues to witness many changes that are propelled by shifts in government policy, empowered stakeholders and an increasingly more stringent regulatory environment.

While we would like to retain our core mandate of educating the next generation and creating new knowledge, the role of academic institution in enhancing development through knowledge and research can never be underestimated.

This notwithstanding, universities carry a grave responsibility to be a catalyst for socio-economic development through the creation of new knowledge, research and innovation, incubation and entrepreneurship, and the eventual commercialisation of outputs emanating from these initiatives.

This is especially true of our continent and region where we have the unique opportunity to influence the ongoing economic growth hence the reference to Africa as an emerging market.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 recognises the key role that science, technology and innovation will play in driving development, social transformation and international competitiveness. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved by the assiduous application of scientific knowledge to solve problems.

In fulfilling their mandate, the expected impact of university education in upskilling intellectual and human capital is significant for any economy. This necessarily calls for retraining the lecturers in research-based knowledge and competencies to give impetus to their teaching capabilities and enable them to cope with the millennials.

There exist changes in pedagogy largely driven by new technology. This too has presented exciting and challenging times for universities. This is evident in online and blended learning programmes prevalent in developed economies but will soon become the new norm even here.

It is imperative and urgent that our institutions endeavour to inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset among students to, not only make them ready for the job market but more importantly to catalyse a paradigm shift from seeking formal employment to being job-creators and employers by utilising their creative and innovative abilities.

At Strathmore University, we have attempted to, in a small but increasingly impactful way to adapt to the new environment by establishing @iLabAfrica Innovation & Research Centre, and @iBizAfrica Incubation Centre too. The impact of these two centres in the few years since we started them have convinced the university community that we must move towards effective utilisation of technology in projects and innovations that provide solutions for existing business challenges.

Through partnerships with industry, state agencies and NGOs, we can bridge the big gap that these corporates and governments face, as they look for solutions from institutions of higher learning. This is the space we must engage in using research and innovation.

The writer is vice chancellor of Strathmore University.