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Nairobi University eyes Sh500m fund to sponsor high potential innovators

The University of Nairobi is targeting a Sh500 million fund to finance innovators.

The fund will be used to help develop exceptional ideas that will be showcased during the third annual Nairobi Innovation Week, slated for March 2017.

“We hope also that we will use part of the money to reward the innovators,” said Industrialisation PS Julius Korir yesterday in Nairobi at the launch of 2017 event.

Part of the money comes from a Sh100 million pledge President Uhuru Kenyatta made at the conclusion of the 2016 edition of the innovation week in August.

The University of Nairobi says it has received a further funding commitment from Sh1.1 billion (Sh11.1 million) Unicef innovation fund meant for investment in technology that benefits children.

The rest of the funds, the institution said, would be raised through partnerships with the private sector and aid agencies.

The Nairobi Innovation Week is an event that offers local innovators a platform to publicise and pitch their ideas to potential investors.

The number of delegates attending the event next year is expected to double from the 2,000 recorded in the 2016 edition.

The 2017 event, themed ‘Innovating to Solve Pressing Local and Global Challenges, targets inventors using technology to address concerns such as food scarcity and climate change.

Among the innovations showcased in previous editions of the event were an LPG leakage detector and a solar-powered lawn mower.

This year, the University of Nairobi aims to take 100 inventors through the programme, which will also include training and presentation of research papers.

Investments in science and technology startups in Kenya are on the rise as the government attempts to push an industrialisation agenda. Private sector firms such as Safaricom are putting money into innovations.

Beyond the University of Nairobi, other educational institutions with initiatives to support technology start-ups include the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Strathmore University.

Nevertheless, research by the ICT Authority and business incubation hub Nailab has shown that there is a gap in the market with many technology startups still facing difficulties in accessing the needed resources to grow their businesses.

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