By James Mphande
The Centre for Innovation and Industrial Research (CIIR) at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) on October 7, 2019 launched its innovation garage with 16 innovations from recently graduating students under incubation.
Speaking during the launch ceremony, Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Jonathan Makuwira said by encouraging its graduates to go beyond knowledge acquisition and asking them to use such knowledge to come up with innovative ideas, MUST was on the path to what people expect of modern universities.
“We need to get out of our comfort zones and these graduates gathered data which they analysed into information and got knowledge. Their innovative ideas are a manifestation of them being able to use knowledge to come up with solutions to daily challenges and this is what is lacking among many Malawians.
“As a country we have many opportunities but we do not see them because we do not use our knowledge to think. We are do not want to get out of comfort zones and think hard,” he said, adding that the university through management will support such innovative initiatives as they make MUST a real university of science and technology.
In his remarks, CIIR head, Dr David Mkwambisi said apart from innovation garage has four components which will target students or graduates, community members, secondary school students and industries.
“Anyone with innovative ideas from these groups will be supported to give them a platform to nurture their idea until it becomes economically viable. What we have today is a group of graduating MUST students who submitted their innovative ideas following an Innovation Challenge that attracted 56 entries. However, due to space, we have just picked 16 for this first phase but we are exploring ways to accommodate the others,” he said.
Dr Mkwambisi said the Industrial Research Centre was rebranded to CIIR because innovation was considered the Launchpad for any meaningful interaction with the industry during research.
“We hope that if these graduates fine-tune their ideas to become commercially viable, they can create new companies that will help in job creation or the innovations can help existing companies to expand their portfolios and again creating room for more vacancies. In so doing, we will be contributing towards job creation and national development,” he said.
Meanwhile, all the selected innovators, who are working with lecturers as coaches, are undergoing a workshop focusing on innovation development processes, pitching and business model development.
They will also choose their team leaders, draw programmes for meetings, idea presentation by proponents and discuss ideas and refining them.
Interesting, there is almost a 50:50 representation of female and male innovators.
CIIR is a research centre under MUST and apart from the MUST Innovation Programme, it is also implementing the following programmes: MUST Innovation Scholar Programme funded by USAID; MUST Innovation Capacity Building Programme funded by Smoke Free World Foundation, and Africa Drone and Data Academy funded by UNICEF.