Science, technology and innovation (STI) policies are currently at the heart of national development discussions in Africa. In eastern Africa, governments are beginning to actively support STI development including modern bio-sciences as tool for modernizing agriculture and ensuring environmental sustainability. In all eastern African countries STI policies are beginning to take root with most of the countries at varying stages of developing and/or implementing requisite policy framework. This renewed emphasis on STI as a driver for economic growth and development reflects the African Union (AU) commitment to advancing S&T in continent and in some ways addresses the goals of AU/NEPAD Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, 2006-2010.
Advances in the field of bio-sciences affords the region the opportunity to fully exploit the genetic potential and improve crop productivity, presents new agro-processing opportunities to diversify smallholder production, increasing demand for local crops, thereby improving rural livelihoods. It also provides an opportunity for the agro-pressing industries to be more efficient and competitive by converting agro-waste into value added products such as feed, bio-energy and other valuable products while at the same time reducing environmental impact. However, for bio-science research and innovations activities in the eastern Africa region to be effectively integrated into socio-economic development, there has to be an enabling environment to enhance the uptake of these innovations.
Even though the necessary organizations and policy systems are in place in most of the eastern Africa countries, policy coordination between different branches of government is often lacking. In addition there is need for interventions addressing a number of important regional policy challenges affecting bio-science innovations which include among others limited access to new, affordable eco-friendly technologies for crop production and agro-processing; difficulties in information and biological resources exchange and their equitable utilization; in adequate sustainable financing and incentives for value addition activities for the private sector and that promotes a bio-entrepreneurship culture .
The Bio-resources innovation policy project consortium was assembled to provide the necessary policy support services to the Bio-Innovate projects and assist them to translate research efforts into tangible innovations for the market by providing the link among key actors at the appropriate time in the innovation cycle. These links will differ according to the type of technology innovations – agricultural, environmental and industrial.
The goal of this consortium is to provide policy support services necessary to move research ideas and products to the market, and ultimately contribute to a vibrant bio-economy in eastern Africa. More specifically the consortium will target specific policy intervention and support services that allow Bio-Innovate projects to successfully bring their technologies and business ideas to the market including:
Identifying and evaluating policy support needs of the projects in participating countries;
Establishing a forum for interaction and exchange of ideas on bio-science innovations and policies in eastern Africa;
Providing policy support tools for bio-sciences innovations and related activities in the region.
Intellectual property audit for five technologies under development to determine patentability potential and to assess whether there is need to conduct freedom to operate analyses conducted.
Idea feasibility and techno-economic analyses to evaluate the business viability of the five of the innovations and business plan for one project developed to support subsequent commercialization of the technologies completed.
A review of the status of STI policy development in the region to establish the extent to which these policies generally support bioscience innovations has been conducted and reported.
An introductory 2-day training course on entrepreneurship skills including technology licensing, intellectual property law among other business topics conducted for Bio-innovate scientists.
Mapping and analyses of Bio-Innovate stakeholders to help identify policy limitations facing uptake of biosciences innovations within the region and the key value chain actors completed.
Science communication skills training manual for Bio-Innovate scientists developed and training on how to incorporate communication along the innovations cycle conducted
Policy papers on “Policies and regulatory incentives for innovations in waste and wastewater management in eastern Africa” and “Development, regulation and use of Bio-pesticides in eastern Africa’ will be published.