On Thursday, March 12, 2020, during the Academic and Innovation Exhibition at Bishop Stuart University in Mbarara, Western Uganda, several students, and faculty exhibited a cross-section of potentially transformative innovative solutions. The Exhibition was guided by the theme: ‘Higher Education and the Private Sector: Preparing Human Resource Capital for the 4th Industrial Evolution’. All the solutions which were exhibited are being developed to address diverse community challenges both within and outside the University. It was fulfilling to engage with passionately speaking ladies and gentlemen at Bishop Stuart University commonly referred to as BSU. BSU https://bsu.ac.ug/ was founded in 2002 as a private, not-for-profit, multi-campus university in Uganda. The University is located in the urban setting of the large town of Mbarara (population range of 50,000-249,999 inhabitants). 

Over 30 innovative approaches, ideas and projects were exhibited and the exhibition was characterized by succinct pitches and hands-on demonstrations. A team of three (Nathan Tumuhamye, RAN’s Director Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab; Dr. Julius Ssentongo, RAN’s Program Coordinator and Harriet Adong, RAN’s Director Communications and Knowledge Management) from Makerere University-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) were privileged to not only accompany Prof. William Bazeyo, Makerere University’s Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor-In-Charge of Finance and Administration as the Chief Guest but also physically engage with the exhibitors as judges. ‘This was not only yet another learning experience but also an opportunity for us to further generate and share knowledge leveraging from what we do at the RAN innovation incubation lab’ shared Nathan Tumuhamye. The exhibitors were very passionate and enthusiastic about their proposed solutions and they all spoke out their hearts while sharing about their solutions. Projects exhibited included; a Solar Oven, ethnobiology lab-producing aromatic natural products, Excell foods-value addition on bananas, Natures Gifts-exploring use of banana fiber among other resources to design home decorations/gifts and use of recycled paper to design gift bags, Excel Hort consult-organic fertilizer production, Active Living Company Limited-producing natural aftershave products among other hygienic products, Macknel Papaya-value addition to sweet potatoes, Visual Arts Design and Technology-Fashion and Design, Organic Wine-Paradise Wine, Juka Juice-value addition to Pineapples, Uganda Trans market-an ICT application for Agricultural products marketing, transportation, Mushroom growing-backyard gardening, Organic manure from goat and poultry droppings, cow dung, Production of hand sanitizer from aloe vera leaves among others.   ‘In order to select the top 11 most promising proposed innovative projects, we had to physically engage with all the projects, so that our decision is informed’ noted Dr. Julius Ssentongo one of the exhibition judges.  

The top 11 most promising projects were recognized and moving forward, all these will receive incubation support from ResilientAfrica Network (RAN). Out of the 11, the top 5 (Ethnobiology lab, EXCELL Foods, Natures Gifts, Organic Wine-Paradise Wine and Uganda Transmarket) received seed funding totaling to USD 1,000  from the Chief Guest Prof. William Bazeyo, who is also RAN’s Chief of Party. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am a farmer and as a farmer, allow me to award the top 5 most promising proposed innovative projects being worked on by students and faculty at BSU. I have come with USD 1,000 only and this should be shared amongst these projects’ said Prof. Bazeyo.  From experience, every penny counts in the innovation journey, it is therefore prudent that we all emulate the acts of Prof. Bazeyo so that we enhance efforts towards supporting the identification and further development/nurturing of multidisciplinary innovations. It is such funds, once well utilized or appropriated that can yield even more in the long run. 

In his remarks, Prof. Bazeyo thanked the innovators for allocating time to being creative, he admitted BSU to the ResilientAfrica Network in which the University innovators would benefit from training on writing winning proposals for funding, receive guidance and support through-out the product patenting, certifications and commercialization process and connect with stakeholders to test products among other opportunities. Prof. Bazeyo also advised both student and faculty innovators that in the process they need to look at and appreciate who their competitors are, focus on the users of the products/services being created, be open to learning as it is a continuous process, embrace innovation in the mind, body, and soul so that anywhere you pitch your idea or proposed solution you win, the importance to highlight what is different in one’s innovation or proposed solution, the need and importance to focus on the users as one innovates so that there is the market for your product-Human Centered Design one of the training all the innovators will receive under incubation at RAN, the fact that these innovators need to learn more how to pitch their ideas in 2 or less minutes-TED Talks way of the presentation given that people do not have all the time to listen in yet he or she might likely have resources to spare to fund the project being pitched among other tips. He thanked Mrs. Mauda Kamatenesi Mugisha, Vice-Chancellor BSU for being one of the leading scientists in Uganda. ‘Thank you Mauda for ably leading this institution and keeping in touch with Makerere University an institution which sent you to BSU’ Prof. Bazeyo added

 

While thanking Prof. Prof Bazeyo, Rt. Rev. Dr. Shelton Mwesigwa, Chancellor BSU said ‘Thank you Prof. Bazeyo for having such a good and kind heart, sharing what you have with others and enhancing creativity amongst students, faculty and the community. God keeps rewarding you for being who you are’. He urged all the exhibition participants to use their minds to innovate so that we can together address the enormous community challenges. 

Moving forward, the RAN team is in talks with BSU management and Innovation Lead to plan for the engagement sessions engaging these innovators. We are committed to growing the innovation ecosystem within and outside Uganda using cheap and readily available resources and materials. It is for this reason that we openly engage, partner and collaborate with all who are available and willing to join us in the strive as ‘We Build for the Future’ employing ‘Solutions through Innovation’. The event proceedings were shared on Twitter #BSUExhibitions #6thBSUWeek.