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Scientific research and innovation for human development-the concept of science parks for Universities in Kenya

Authors:
Educational Research (ISSN: 2141-5161) Vol. 7(4) pp. 100-105, November, 2016
Available online@ http://www.interesjournals.org/ER
DOI: http:/dx.doi.org/10.14303/er.2016.140
Copyright © 2016 International Research Journals
Review
Scientific research and innovation for human
development-the concept of science parks for
Universities in Kenya
Geoffrey Mwanza Muluvi, Jonathan Muema Mwania,
3
Dr. Josphert Ngui Kimatu,
4
Joseph
Munyoki Mwinzi*
1
Vice Chancellor South Eastern Kenya University- Kenya
2
Director, Kitui Town Campus, South Eastern Kenya University-Kenya
3
Director, Research, Innovation and Technology, South Eastern Kenya University-Kenya
4
Department of Educational Foundations University of Nairobi
*Corresponding Author’s E-mail: joemwinzi@live.com
Abstract
Sustained competitive innovation is not seldom an outcome of the effort of a single industry or
institution. This realization has spurred governments to direct resources to stimulate the emergence
and strengthening of research institutions and universities in Kenya Universities in the 21
st
century aim
at providing solutions to challenges facing human society through structured research and the
generation of ideas for new products. This paper explores how the established institutions in Kenya
have generated research to develop those areas where they are geographically located. Among the
questions to be answered by this paper include; where are we in terms of scientific and technological
research? What has been done and what remains to be done? Has the research quality and quantity
changed since the establishment of several other universities? How well have the Kenyan university
researchers disseminated their findings to industrial sector and how has funding affected the
generation of new innovations? How individual universities have mobilized resources for the sake of
research? The paper too proposes the creation of science parks as a proven method that university
researchers in Kenya can use to commercialize their innovations and make industrial products more
relevant and competitive as they help the government in creating more jobs. The generalized
assumption is that research in science in Africa is faced by almost similar challenges and thus the
Kenyan experiences, challenges and solutions can inform other regions in the developing world.
Keywords: Research, Human capital, Technology, Commercialization of research, Knowledge incubation,
Innovations
INTRODUCTION
Role of universities in research, innovation and the
incubation of ideas
In her paper, Transformation of Higher Education in
Kenya, Kinyanjui, 2007 called on the government to
consider establishing universities in various regions of the
country with the aim of promoting research to spur
economic development. The universities so created were
to be centers of innovation, knowledge incubators and
were to partner with other research institutes to promote
research in specific areas for national development. The
Kenyan government has also promoted research through
the bodies like the Kenya National Academy for
Sciences, National Commission for Science and
Technology, National Council for Science and
Technology and many other research institutes in the
country. However, there is need to re-examine the trends
and sustainability of the envisioned research and
technology strategies. All the facets of the role of
Universities in spurring economic development has not
been fully utilized in Africa. Manuel Castells (2001)
argues that apart from universities being avenues of
socialization of the elite they are centers of scientific
research. The developmental ideology of societies is a
central concept that is perpetuated by universities in most
countries worldwide. When knowledge becomes so
important and sought after then universities and generally
higher education is highlighted. In the United States for
instance, universities are considered to be the principal
strength of the national innovation system. Universities
have been centers of innovation and incubators of the
best ideas in most countries. It is these progressive ideas
that have been shaped and reconstructed to foster
industrial, technological and hence economic
development in different countries.
In the recent past universities have experienced two
major revolutions, according to Etzkowitz (1998). The first
was an academic revolution, which made research a role
of the university; while the second is the integration of
economic function into the academic equation.
Universities are now becoming more entrepreneurial and
business-minded. Powell et al. (1996) notes that there is
a complex web of relationships among academics–with
universities originating business enterprises in which
academics themselves are involved. This is well
illustrated by Nobel-prize winner, Arthur Kornberg, in his
book: ‘The Golden Helix’ (Kornberg, 1995). Here, he
expressed bafflement that a highly focused academic
scientist, such as himself had become an advocate of
industry/academic intersection, finding it fruitful for both
science and business (Blumenthal, 1986). This is the
direction of these centers of knowledge generation.
Research and the marketing of the same research to
industrial world so that finally it becomes a catalyst for
industrial development.
Kent Hill (2006) notes that, “The most important
source of technological progress over the past 150 years
has been the advance of scientific knowledge. A
dependence of industrial innovation on science first
became evident the 19th century. Application of
principles of chemistry and physics became central to the
commercial success of manufacturers of steel, rubber,
chemicals, drugs, and electricity. Industries came to rely
on universities to train the scientists and engineers they
would employ in their research laboratories.
These points to the fact that for industrial revolution to
take place in the African continent then we have to invest
in scientific research and link the same to the industries.
Most worthy Universities in Africa have realized these
very central functions and as a result began to train
industrial scientists and engineers in an effort to be
alternative sources of research for national development.
These paper examines how well our African
universities achieved this goal. My focus mainly being
Kenya where university education has expanded
tremendously in the past ten years.
Kenyan government is focused on the vision 2030
which is an economic blueprint to make the country a
middle income economy and join the league of newly-
Muluvi, 101
industrialized countries with a higher quality of life to all
its citizens by the year 2030. One of the pillars of vision
2030 in Kenya is the education pillar. One of the
fundamental first-focus objectives of the education pillars
in this blueprint is to offer opportunities for advancement
of learning beyond basic education with strong leaning
towards tertiary level scholarship and research. Such a
concern underscores the importance of the university in
Kenya in realizing vision 2030. The University Education
Policy of 2012 in Kenya spells clearly that, “Kenya’s
future as a prosperous and internationally competitive
nation will depend on her university education system. As
a nation Kenya will rely on this system to create a pool of
highly trained human resource capital that underpins our
national ambitions of being a knowledge-based economy.
It is such thinking that went ahead to inform the mission,
vision, and core values of the most universities in the
country. Research has been core mandate in most
universities in Kenya where the focus has been to
generate scientific knowledge for national progress
towards vision 2030. Knowledge producers world over
are the drivers of industrialization process and thus
Kenya is pursuing a policy paradigm that places
universities and research institutes at the centre of
knowledge and technology generation and dissemination.
The story of the Silicon Valley resulted from university
research and so Kenya is on the verge of adopting such
research, industrial and economic models in the vision
2030.
According to World Development Report (2009) Kenya
scores only 3% in terms technology exports as a
percentage of manufactured exports and a Technology
Achievement Index (TAI) of around 0.129. At the same
time Science and Engineering enrolment in the
Universities was around 0.3%. The situation has changed
slightly but then there are positive indicators due to
increased number of universities which are centers of
research in science, engineering and technology. The
National Council of Science and Technology has gone
some strides in that organizing Science and Technology
fairs in collaboration with universities so as to encourage
scientific innovations.
Kenyan Universities are organizing conferences of
international caliber in an effort to have forums to share
the very progressive ideas in science and technology.
These efforts are more pronounced in our Kenyan
universities nowadays than any other time in our history.
Our scientists have been honored regionally and
internationally due to efforts they have made in research.
Some very innovative ideas have emerged from our
university laboratories in Kenya. Ecotran idea from the
University of Nairobi students was a novel project which
is set to curb pollution and ease power demand and
increase profits in transport industry more so in the use of
Bodaboda taxis. Elsewhere in an event organized by the
National Council of Science and Technology (NCST)
Technical University of Kenya students had created an
102 Educ. Res.
autonomous robot in their Engineering laboratories. As a
result of all these most universities in Kenya are coming
up with technology and scientific innovation centers. A
good example is the Technology incubation of The
Technical University of Kenya. At the South Eastern
Kenya University (SEKU) the Directorate of Research,
Innovation and Technology produced low cost smoked
water purification clay pots with the aim of tackling the
problem of water scarcity and water borne infections in
the County of Kitui. These pots reduced water borne
microorganisms by 86% and reduced turbidity by 100%
(Chung et al., 2013). The University of Nairobi has also
been on the fore front in offering innovative solutions to
national development, for example is set to be the first
public institution of higher learning to develop a grid
connected biogas facility after it expands its biogas
project based at upper Kabete campus.
In Kenya, the government has partnered with
Industries and universities in an effort to train current and
future requirements of human capital. Universities in
Kenya have been set up in regions where they are
supposed to spur research and develop the geographical
regions where they are found. South Eastern Kenya
University in Kitui is close to Mui Basin which has large
deposits of Coal and where SEKU will play a key role
from its Institute of Mining and Mineral Processing.
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology is
located in the Sugar growing areas of Western Kenya
thus it role to spur research in Sugar Research. As a
result the university has a Department of Sugar
Technology which trains students in sugar engineering
and other related courses. These undertakings are
geared towards bringing the role of the university home in
relation to the question of research. It cannot therefore be
labored further that universities in Kenya are in the front
line when it comes to research. With increased research
activity in our universities the biggest question would be
how are the researchers reaching the industries?
Commercialization of Research Ideas in Kenya
There is need to match research expertise and creativity
with commercialization of the findings. Seminars,
workshops, publications, informal contacts, staff
exchange and training among other means are the ways
in which research ideas reach the market. Knowledge
dissemination should be seen as active, directed, and
interactive process of communicating knowledge to the
target group for adoption and application. Without
dissemination and utilization of research ideas it may not
be possible to realize tangible industrial progress. The
University innovation process of doing Research, then
Publishing, followed by Patenting the technology, the
making a Prototype and finally commercializing the
Product [RPPPP] has not been followed to the end by
many researchers. This has been due to the working of
the universities, industries and government in isolated
silos as show in the figure 1 below.
The role of intra and inter faculty collaborations in
shaping innovation
Most universities have not yet developed guidelines for
faculty collaboration with researchers at other
universities. Collaboration beyond student exchange is
normally based on common research interests. This
assumes that faculty in both universities are equally
active in research. The limited research output of Kenyan
lecturers reduces the opportunities for collaboration with
industry and foreign universities.
The study commissioned by CHE, according to
Gichaga et al. (2005), found that there is limited
collaboration between Kenyan universities and industry.
This is partly due to the lack of awareness of local
industry of the potential for research contributions from
Kenyan universities, or to the lack of awareness of
university researchers of industry’s needs. This is
compounded by the fact that multinationals employ and
utilize research from their mother countries. This can
urgently be remedied by the development of science
parks as in happened in the USA in the late 1970s.
However, in the USA, there are research transfer
issues which include; the negative effects of the
commercialization of research at universities, possible
conflicts of interests and barriers to access research
tools, question of funding in the early stages and
problems of intellectual property protection. According to
Magnus Karlsson (2004) the problems of
commercialization of research in the world dodge both
the developed and developing world alike. The same
problems that play in America are available in Kenya but
within varying magnitudes.
In Kenya, conferences, workshops, policy briefs and
seminars are the commonly used methods of
dissemination of research findings. These methods are
likely not to have the expected impact on the industry and
as such low industrial intake of research. Nevertheless,
what needs to be done is formulation of policy on
strategies of dissemination, support culture of knowledge
transfer, increase the motivation for the need of
knowledge transfer, increase the levels of industry
collaborations with the research institutions and increase
the funding at the level of dissemination of university
innovations and research.
A deliberate effort must be made to make the
universities, industries and government to collaborate in
developing a sustainable innovation flat form. They can
start by dealing with innovations in cross cutting issues
like energy, transport and ICT. This flat form is what is
called a science park. It is a physical place where regular
meetings are held and ideas consolidated for impactful
innovation as shown in Figure 2 below.
Muluvi, 103
Figure1. Show that although the Universities, Government and Industries are
regulated by same policies in the same country in many developing countries, they
are still working without strategic linkages to spur sustainable economic
development.
Figure 2. The formation of a science park (coloured red) which shows
cross cutting issues between Universities, Industries and the government
ministries. Other bi-specific issues and innovations (coloured blue, purple
and green) can also be addressed like Jobs, taxes and infrastructure as
shown at the links.
Research has shown that knowledge constructed in
the context of solving problems is better comprehended,
retained, and therefore more transferable. This is the
reason why the universities in Kenya anchor their
research on community service in an effort to solve the
challenges that face these communities. Once problem
solving research has integrated into the Kenyan
academic life then knowledge generation and transfer will
be practical and socially useful. This is the goal of the
government and is also the way industries make profit.
104 Educ. Res.
How the science park can solve the challenges of
scientific research
James Otieno and Milton Obamba (2013) in their report
to Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) identify inadequate and
undiversified funding in African universities as a major
challenge to research at the university level. Although
their study regarded Ghana, Uganda and Kenya it can
also be said to be applying in other countries. Due to low
economic growth government funding of research in our
universities has gown down and that way the
researchers’ morale waned. Against underfunding is also
the problem of numbers in the universities where the
researchers concentrate on teaching at the expense of
research. This is so because most researchers are
faculty members in their universities.
It is unfortunate that most Universities have almost
taken a business slant in Kenya and in an effort to do
cost-cutting on some non-essential services and most of
them are not funding research from the internally
generated funds. This has left a research minded
professor and other talented young researchers
disenchanted and reluctant to initiate research in their
areas of interest. Research students in Kenya also suffer
from a lack of contact with other scientists, a problem
made worse by the absence of any easily accessible
database of the country's scientific efforts, or any
inventory of the country's scientists. Even though scientist
meet in the so called international conferences there is
no internal means of exchanging ideas in the country and
this gives research undertaking a beating.
Universities in Kenya cannot afford to offer attractive
salaries for research staff. As in Africa generally, low pay
and poor working conditions and terms of service are
widely blamed for the 'brain drain' that continues to sap
the country’s resources. Over the years university staff
unions have clashed with the government and university
management over the same leading to closures and loss
of utility time that could have been committed to
research.
The generational clash is also affecting research in the
universities where certain old professors think that
modern or emerging technology is not of use. This pits
those professors against young scholars who instead
want to experiment new ways of doing things. Although
this may not be documented as a serious problem I am
convinced that it has continued to affect research in both
the universities and institutes of research. This being a
question of technology gap calls for retraining and
adoption of emerging ideas to both the established
researchers and those who are joining them.
CONCLUSION
In conclusion it should be noted that Kenya has achieved
great strides in research even though there are enormous
challenges facing the Kenyan researcher. Underfunding
by government, poor coordination of research
undertaking, generational gaps between old professors
and upcoming young researchers, increased student
numbers in the universities leaving the university
researcher with minimum time to commit in research are
some of the problems underscored by this paper.
However we pinpoint that the development of a science
park shall be the remedy of the challenges facing
innovation and technology in Kenya. This is the basis of
the secret of the industrial and technological innovation is
the whole world. By 1990, the number of science parks in
USA was 398, Germany had 106, Japan 104, China 52,
UK 50, France 35, Australia 33, Canada 31, Sweden 15,
and Russia 14. The science parks are the ones which
give rise to Techno cities or techno polis. Kenya shall
befit from the Konza Techno city if the science parks in
the University are urgently developed.
We also suggest that universities in Kenya should
proceed to spur development based on research in
various areas. A research is needed in Turkana County
where oil was discovered recently, Marine science and
Fisheries should be strengthened in both the coastal
areas and around Lake Victoria in order to realize
increased fishing activity and creation of jobs. Dryland
Agriculture in the arid and semi-arid regions should
attract more research in order to feed growing population
and create Job opportunities. Mining and Mineral
Processing should be funded more with the aim of
utilizing the countries untapped mineral resources for
national development.
It is the high time that universities partnered with other
organizations to fund research in Kenya and to find
solutions to economic growth and industrialization.
Universities should create links with the local industries
and multi-nationals with the aim of domesticating all the
technology for national development. We cannot lament
throughout but we need to learn from other countries as
we get deeper and deeper into globalization. In a
knowledge-based society, Universities, industries and the
government have mutual roles and form a triple helix in
stimulating and sustaining innovation. We have to do
situational analysis of the Africa set up and carry out
stakeholder engagement for the establishment of
strategic science parks in most Universities. A University
without a science park cannot have sustainable research
and innovation, a company without a science park cannot
survive global competition while a government without a
science park cannot generate enough revenue and jobs
to satisfy its citizens. The government in the triple helix,
must support these linkages through creation of a
favourable regulatory environment, provision of tax
incentives and granting of public venture capital. On the
other hand, the Industry should collaborate with the
university in developing entrepreneurial universities for
new competitive global products. However, in areas
where knowledge-based industries are lacking, the
university-government interactions can help jump-start
their creation and sustainability. Therefore the concept of
science and Technology Parks shall be promote the
economic development and competitiveness of regions
and cities by: creating new business opportunities and
adding value to mature companies; fostering
entrepreneurship and incubating new innovative
companies; generating knowledge-based jobs; building
attractive spaces for the emerging knowledge workers;
enhancing the synergy between universities and
companies as envisioned by the International Association
of Science Parks. It is amazing that only Egerton
University is a member of the international association of
science parks in Kenya, (www.iasp.ws)
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The growth of university-industry research relationships in biotechnology has raised questions concerning their effects, both positive and negative, on universities. A survey of over 1200 faculty members at 40 major universities in the United States reveals that biotechnology researchers with industrial support publish at higher rates, patent more frequently, participate in more administrative and professional activities and earn more than colleagues without such support. At the same time, faculty with industry funds are much more likely than other biotechnology faculty to report that their research has resulted in trade secrets and that commercial considerations have influenced their choice of research projects. Although the data do not establish a causal connection between industrial support and these faculty behaviors, our findings strongly suggest that university-industry research relationships have both benefits and risks for academic institutions. The challenge for universities is to find ways to manage these relationships that will preserve the benefits while minimizing the risks.
Introducing efficient low cost smoked pots for water purification for developing countries
  • H C Dong
  • N K Josphert
  • O N Kelvin
  • J S Kim
  • N O Karren
  • U K Johnson
Dong HC, Josphert NK, Kelvin ON, Kim JS, Karren NO, Johnson UK (2013). Introducing efficient low cost smoked pots for water purification for developing countries. Hydrology Current Res 2013, 4: 152, pp. 2157 -7587.
Measuring the Technology Achievement of Nations and the Network Age
  • D Meghnad
  • P Sakikofukuda
  • J Claes
  • S Fransisco
Meghnad D, Sakikofukuda-P, Claes J, Fransisco S (2002). Measuring the Technology Achievement of Nations and the Network Age. Journal of Human Development, Vol 3. No.1
A study on university-industry linkage in Kenya, a report submitted to the Commission for Higher Education
  • F J Gichaga
Gichaga FJ (2005). A study on university-industry linkage in Kenya, a report submitted to the Commission for Higher Education, January 2005.
University Research and Local Economic Development. (Productivity and Prosperity project)
  • K Hill
Hill K (2006). University Research and Local Economic Development. (Productivity and Prosperity project). Arizona State University. Arizona.
African Network for Internalization of Education. Draft Report on Research and Innovation Management: Comparative Analysis of Ghana
  • O James
  • O Milton
James O, Milton O (2013). African Network for Internalization of Education. Draft Report on Research and Innovation Management: Comparative Analysis of Ghana, Kenya, Uganda.