It gives me great pleasure to share with you the Bio-Innovate Program annual newsletter. In this issue we are sharing the exciting progress made by the Program in 2013 as well as future prospects of the Program beyond the current implementation phase. Thanks to the devotion of our project partners, we have made great strides in generating innovations that are scalable to solve the region’s agricultural and environmental challenges and expand agribusiness opportunities through value added activities in eastern Africa.
The year 2013 was a momentous year for the Program as most projects entered the second half of their implementation. This was an opportune time for reflection on progress made and share achievements and challenges with our partners and other stakeholders within and outside the region. To ensure that we capitalize on our successes and lessons learnt thus far in the implementation of the Program, the Program mid-term review was conducted in 2013.
The Program also organized the 1st Bio-Innovate Regional Scientific conference as a platform for Bio-Innovate partners including scientists, private sector players, policy makers, donors and other stakeholders to share scientific achievements and deliberate on issues surrounding the optimal uptake of bioscience innovations in the region.
The mid-term review brought to the fore “critical success factors” that needed to be addressed with respect to Program and project design and management in order to maximize opportunities for successful establishment of innovation systems capable of delivering sustainable and scalable impact. The review revealed that Phase I is already showing clear signs that research outputs are moving closer to the end-users via the innovation pilot-testing conducted in partnership with the private sector.
In the past three years the Program has generated innovations for improving the productivity and adaptability of sorghum, finger millet, bean, cassava, potato and sweet potato to different agro-ecological zones and environmental stresses, as well as value addition to enhance commercialization of sorghum, finger millet and bean products. The Program has also pilot-tested innovative agro-waste and wastewater treatment technologies for value addition to generate by-products (biogas and biofertilizer) and secure freshwater resources in partnerships with industrial partners in the region. Techno-economic analyses and business plans for promising innovations were also conducted to support subsequent up scaling and commercialization process in the region.
The Bio-Innovate Program Management Office (PMO) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) have internalized the outcomes and lessons from the mid-term review to improve ongoing phase I implementation as well as in designing and developing Phase II of the Program. Accordingly, all the Program supported projects were reviewed to focus on Program core principles and results-based management – linking research and innovation activities with product deployment agents and end user. The Program partnered with Switch Responsible Ventures (Stockholm, Sweden) and Strathmore University business school (Nairobi, Kenya) to conduct techno-economic analysis and development of business plans and intellectual property audit, respectively, for the projects to evaluate commercial viability for eventual commercialization of innovations.
The Bio-Innovate Phase I implementation (2010-2014) is expected to be concluded by the end of 2014. Consequently, the PMO and TAC are currently consolidating and working towards closure of Phase I activities whilst designing, planning and developing Bio-Innovate Program Phase II proposal (2015-2019). I am delighted to inform you that the Bio-Innovate Program phase II draft concept note has been prepared for review and discussion at the TAC and regional stakeholders’ consultative meeting scheduled for 24-25 February 2014, Arusha, Tanzania.
Building on the experiences and achievements of Phase I, Phase II will ensure up and out-scaling and commercialization of promising agricultural, environmental and industrial bioscience innovations. Phase II niche is characterized by a focus on the applications of demand-driven bio-resource innovations (pilot testing, innovation incubation and commercialization) to enhance productivity, diversification and support to the transformation of the agricultural, environmental and industrial sectors from primary production activities to value addition, while enhancing adaptability to climatic change and strengthening technology adoption and sustainability analysis.
We hope you enjoy reading this newsletter that highlights important events in 2013, progress and achievements to date of on-going agricultural innovations under the food security thematic focus and our plans beyond the current phase.