”It was an honour to have been the first winner from Makerere University to attend the BIG Ideas 2016/2017 awards ceremony” exclaimed Grace Nakibaala, Lead Innovator on the Pedal Tap Innovation. At the awards event, Grace represented the Pedal Tap team (who won in the first place of the Scaling Up category scooping USD 8000 only),  Makerere University students who took part in the competition and ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) a partner of the BIG Ideas competition which facilitates and supports students from Makerere University to participate in the BIG Ideas Contest.

The awards ceremony took place on May 3rd, 2017 at the Blum Centre for Developing Economics at University of California Berkley, USA. Leveraging from the power of collaboration, the BIG Ideas team took care of Grace’s accommodation and entire stay at the University of California. ”I was able to tour the university and also engage with judges and mentors especially at the award ceremony” added an excited Innovator-Nakibaala.

Grace was the Student Speaker for the day and she was also richly benefited from an opportunity to share her innovation journey through the BIG Ideas competition.  It was then that Grace shared about the Pedal Tap Innovation which her and team are currently working on. The RAN team having been the first to believe in the Pedal Tap, nurturing it from ideation stage yet one of the 8 Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) Labs also joined in sharing the BIG Ideas opportunity widely. It is exciting to note that this innovation had earlier been supported by the BIG Ideas team leveraging USD 5000 winning in the 3rd place under the Global Health category of the BIG Ideas competition 2016/2017. With that funding, the team was able to take the PedalTaps out in the community for pilot, iterated the product to the current tap which is being scaled to the market.

Pedal Tap product review by EMD Millipore Sigma

While in the USA, Nakibaala also benefitted from the Pedal Tap product review exercise by EMD MilliporeSigma from May 6th to 19th, 2017 in Boston and Rhode Islands. Nakibaala closely worked with experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brown University as partner research universities of the team from EMD Millipore. It was a rich experience where many lessons, insights and mistakes were shared and realised.

Lessons learnt;

  1. Acquiring a Patent for an innovation or product should be taken as key even at early stages of idea conception. Technical information about the innovative idea should be handled with caution when pitching an idea, project or innovation at different fora like to the media, at conferences and potential funders among others. Take caution as you speak about your idea or innovation not to pre-empt the core patentable features of the innovation given that Intellectual Property acquisition is as important as the idea itself and the impact it is designed to achieve in the communities.
  2. Their technology for proof of concept and claims is definitely beyond what is in Uganda. The work these innovators could have done for one year and not even achieved that much was done in a day back in the USA. Grace realised that some of the crucial and necessary tests could not be carried out in Uganda because of the capacity in terms of the required lab equipment. This should sound a loud bell to the ears of other innovators to always work towards forging productive partnerships with fellows from other Universities outside Uganda to better their products especially in the development phase.
  1. Time is very key to innovation. During these engagements, participants interacted with an innovation as simple as Pedal Tap which had been worked on for 8 years and was just being scaled. The quality of work with this innovation was exceptional and in all ways, it was hitting the market with no gaps whatsoever. It is important for innovators to focus in-depth on the right product before rushing to having it on the market.

”I will forever be indebted to the EMD Millipore Sigma who other than supporting me and sharing all this knowledge with me, also facilitated my stay in the USA. In the same vein, a big thank you to the team at RAN who have seen the Pedal Tap Innovation grow from an idea to an actual product ready to compete in the market and positively impact communities. RAN also facilitated my air ticket to and from the USA. I wish every innovator would benefit from such an opportunity, Uganda would be at a different developmental level now” Nakibaala happily shared. This engagement was beyond product review to understanding a lot about innovation as a business. The Pedal Tap team has a lot of work to do. It is worth noting that the Pedal Tap team will be fully working with the team at Johnson and Johnson for the next 1 to 2 years to further development of the product for scaling.

By; Grace Nakibaala, Lead Innovator on the Pedal Tap Innovation.