PBL-BioAfrica innovation challenge kicks off at the University of Nairobi

The University of Nairobi Innovation Fellowship, a program under the PBL-BioAfrica project has officially kicked off. This year’s innovation fellowship will run for 5 months and culminate with a graduation and solution handover to the client later in the year.  In the 2022 cohort, 13 fellows have been admitted and are set to immerse themselves in a challenge to formulate a business model and commercialization strategy of new bean varieties developed by researchers and scientists at the University of Nairobi.

During its kickoff, Prof. Francis Mulaa the Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology urged the fellows to leverage on empathy to design intentions and solutions. “ You should at all times look at other people’s needs and design their intentions as if they were yours. To make sure the end products can sell, you should also ensure you inject elements of business into empathy,” Said Prof. Mulaa.

Prof. Francis Mulaa, Dean Faculty of Science and Technology addressing fellows during the challenge kick-off at C4DLab, Chiromo Campus

Further, the dean emphasized on the need for a mindset change for effective implementation of projects with similar learning methodologies. This comes at a time when the University of Nairobi is looking at incorporating social sciences into sciences and using experiences from previous PBL projects to implement similar projects at the institution.

Over the years, the University of Nairobi through its innovation and incubation hub C4DLab has implemented several editions of the innovation challenge whereby final year and masters students from the institution are engaged by a client to come up with a practical solution to real life industry challenges. In the previous cohorts, different groups have developed practical solutions and products such as fetoscopes, bike sharing programs, food security solutions among others.

About the 2022 Innovation Challenge

For the 2022 cohort, the focus will be to develop a business model from breeder seed, multiplication, commercialization , supply- chain management, financing, marketing , farmers extension services, training and education, operations, collaboration , data management among others. This is informed by the fact that a few varieties from the University of Nairobi that have been commercialised previously have faced a lot of challenges. 

About the Project

PBL-BioAfrica is a collaborative project for strengthening the capacity in bioeconomy HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) in Kenya and Zambia. The project consortium consists of 7 institutions including the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), University of Nairobi, Egerton University, South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU), University of Zambia, Mulungushi University, Häme University of Applied Sciences, and Aalto University.

The project integrates problem-based learning (PBL) methods into bio-entrepreneurship education to equip graduates with practical and entrepreneurial skills needed in working life. For the case of the University of Nairobi, the project is implemented under the University of Nairobi Innovation Fellowship which involves application of PBL and design thinking methodologies to create solutions to real life problems.

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