Rethinking Universities for the 21st Century- Innoversity Project
Written by Nice Charles Msangi
Over the years around the world, the roles of universities have been evolving, and most universities have started to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship as part of their core objectives. In the recent past, universities have begun adopting innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. These are now integral elements of curriculum and pedagogical arrangement to address skills mismatch and unemployment challenges.
While universities in upper-income countries have managed to put in place infrastructure to enable them to integrate technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in their core functions, African universities and specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, universities still need to catch up. This is attributed to several issues, including infrastructure shortfall, limited resources, misconceptions around technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and the dominant tradition of university operations, which are imbued with elements of disciplinary domain and Western-driven theories.
A Case for Innoversity Project
The Innoversity project started in May 2022. The Innoversity Project came alive from the challenges and gap between the academic institution and the market. The project focuses on three main goals; strengthening the institutional and material capacity of HEIs, supporting students’ entrepreneurship journey, and promoting entrepreneurship for employment.
Innoversity Project gets funded by the France Embassy in Tanzania and implemented by Sahara Ventures to support Tanzania HEIs toward third-generation universities incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship beyond academics and research.
The project aims to support HEIs students, lecturers, researchers, and management to integrate innovation and entrepreneurial approaches in their works to address the skills gap and create employment opportunities for youths.
Why Innoversity Project
Globally, universities play an essential role in shaping the socioeconomic achievement of countries. For years, universities have focused only on academics and research as the core activities of higher education institutions. While this has effectively contributed to new knowledge and solutions emerging from universities, universities face unique challenges to stay relevant and solve complex problems in our societies today.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Africa face similar challenges in catching up with the constantly changing needs of the industry. The gap between academic institutions and the market’s needs has widened over the years. The skills mismatch is also a growing concern.
In Tanzania, according to the National Council for Technical Education (NACTE), in mapping the skills gap and needs, identified skills mismatch in all the surveyed sectors. There is a need to rethink our education approach to address these gaps. Universities need to revisit and strategize on the new role of universities beyond just academics and research to incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship.
Innoversity achievements (Innoversty Project: What has been done so far?)
Since May 2022, when the Innoversity project officially launched, Sahara Ventures partnering with the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the University of Iringa, and the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, have managed to implement some activities designed to make the project a success;
During Innovation week, Sahara Ventures hosted Higher Learning Institutions in collaboration with the French Embassy in Tanzania to engage, reflect, and share experiences on how they are embracing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in academics, specifically at the HEIs.
Here is the video story below;
Stakeholders’ engagement focused on understanding the project’s stakeholders, in this case, co-implementors, and creating awareness about the project in the targeted group.
The engagement was done in three Universities; the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the University of Iringa, and the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology.
The Sokoine University of Agriculture.
At the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the team managed to visit SUA Innovation Hub, which is on the main campus; it offers business incubations for food science students and provides tailored training on research demand-driven, support prototyping. IT Innovation Hub, established under SUA Innovation Hub, involves IT students who do hardware maintenance, Software Development, Graphic Designing, and writing articles and newsletters.
The team connected with Prof. Maulid W. Mwatawala, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Directory of Postgraduate Studies, Prof. Esron Karimuribo, and Dr. Doreen Ndossi, the SUA innovation Hub Lead, who briefed us about the accelerator programs they have and the ones the university is about to launch.
The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology.
The team met with the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Research and InnovationProf. Anthony Manoni Mshandete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Planning, Finance, and Administration Prof. Charles Mgamela.
We had a chance to connect the Dean from four schools of Nelson Mandela Institute, Dr.Ernest Mbega, Prof. Revocatus Machunda, Prof. Kelvin Mtei, and Prof. Shubi Kaijage.
We met the hubs under NMAIST, The Incubation office, and the Africa Centre for Research, Agricultural Advancement, Teaching Excellence and Sustainability(CREATES)
The University of Iringa.
At the University of Iringa, the team visited Kiota Hub and talked with startups incubated in the hub. The team connected with Acting DVC Academic Dr. Saul Mteshe, Kiota Hub Director Mr. Deo Sabokwigina, and Kiota Hub Manager Angel, who briefed us about the hub works and what they wish the project to support the hub.
Innoversity Startup School
In every engagement, the startup school component got infused.
A startup school is a platform that aims at creating the next generation of Startup Founders. In this course, the platform connects aspiring founders with existing founders to network and learn from their experiences.
During the engagement, Innoversity Project pulled 3 Startup school events, one at Sokoine University of Agriculture, the other at the University of Iringa, and Nelson Mandela African University of Science and Technology. The startup school events reached over 300+ students and brought in 10+ Innovators and entrepreneurs to share their experiences.
You can learn more about the Innoversity startup school through the link below
Application of Mentors and Entrepreneurs
The call for university entrepreneurs provides an opportunity for undergraduate and postgraduate university students with innovative business ideas in agriculture, particularly the agri-food sector. The call focused on identifying startups at the ideation, prototype, or Minimal Viable Product stage that will lead to sustainable technology businesses and companies with high growth potential.
Successful startups will undergo an incubation program run by Sahara Ventures. After that, it will be linked to on-campus innovation hubs and technology transfer offices to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, technology transfer, and research commercialization to create new solutions and employment opportunities.
The journey continues, and the project achievements don’t end here; Stay tuned for more updates and Stories from the Innoversity Projects.