The new Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Monica Musenero, has formed six think tanks to boost innovation in the country. Musenero said this was one of the ongoing restructuring processes in the ministry, which was recently placed under the office of the president, writes JOHN MUSINGUZI.
Minister Musenero launched a tractor, diesel engine and solar weed killer made by students at Makerere University. Musenero chaired the launch of the innovations brought by the students of the Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) on the Place de la Liberté on August 19, 2021.
On display were a diesel engine, tractor, weed killer / solar sprayer, mini power plant, liquid soap, disinfectants, bleach and toilet cleaner. Liquid soap, disinfectant, bleach and toilet cleaner are already sold in the market and all certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).
Think Tanks are Pathogen Economics, Travel Economics, Engineering, Beauty & Salon, Digital Economy, and Agroeconomics. Musenero said the transformations within the ministry are aimed at putting scientists at the center rather than administrators. Focus groups will guide the identification of priorities and trends.
The funding model for these think tanks and specific projects will strictly follow priority levels rather than a wide democratic dispersion of limited resources to each project, so that none of them ultimately reach maturity.
The emphasis will be on identifying, prioritizing and avoiding competition and rivalries. Above all, there will be great impetus for a change in mindset to ensure that ideas and product prototypes are not sidelined but replicated, commercialized and designed to hit the market.
The think tanks will be multisectoral, are built by recruiting and hiring their specialists and by coordinating to create synergies, she underlined.
EXCUSES TO SCIENTISTS
Musenero apologized to scientists on behalf of the government for frustrations with little or no support for their ideas and research projects, which led to a gloomy mood among young people and dependency syndrome for the economy .
“We’re going to be on one side, as long as I’m still in this position,” she said.
Thus, Musenero challenged our universities and other higher education institutions to train students as part of the national workforce.
“We are wasting a lot of this powerful energy of our students … In that library over there, there are many new ideas, concepts and inventions that are inactive, not facilitated, and unused.”
She has promised to help many higher education institutions reposition theory and training.
“We educated our students as if they would never be able to make an engine. Let’s change now and teach them as if they were going to make an engine or as if they had to do it,” she said.
PRODUCTS OR PERIR
She expressed sadness that the knives she uses in her kitchen must be imported, and from as far away as China, not from a neighboring African country. She lambasted the state of mind of being dependent slaves and copyists.
“We can produce great economic theories and philosophies, but we also have to create new products to improve our economy and the well-being of people … Before it was ‘publish or perish’, but now we should add “produced or perish”. ‘”
The students who made the diesel engine, tractor and solar weed killer were guided and helped by professors (lecturers) and a mid-sized Ugandan company called Kevoton Motions Engineering Ltd. The tractor is equipped with attachments for plowing, planting and weeding. The solar weed killer can reduce compounds and also spray plants that need pesticides or herbicides to spray.
Musenero asked innovators to be gender sensitive in their designs. So she asked them to replace the manual starting of the engine, weedkiller and tractor and generator set with button switches.
Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe said the suspended and underfunded projects in Makerere are very numerous and can be resurrected if the government can provide financial and logistical support.
“We have very creative and productive minds here at Makerere. Makerere has a lot of potential. Students make formulas and prototypes and just give them up, so there is no progress. We bring our universities together with small and medium-sized enterprises, but this may “not be sustainable.” We also work with the private sector and government to make products that we can export; for example, the Katwe cluster which works with Makerere manufactures inverters which are exported to South Sudan, ”he said.
Nawangwe added, “We are doing a lot of things ahead of what the Koreans were doing when they decided not to assemble vehicles but to make their own vehicles. With a change in mindset, we will encourage our students and teachers to keep adding and improving their mistakes. “
He said the college of veterinary medicine, animal resources and biosafety now has the best laboratory equipment of any university on the continent, and the college of business and management sciences produced 100 companies last year.
The Minister promised to support the exposed design projects to reach the level of commercialization.
“Bring us the proposals on” what to do next “and we will support you. With what I saw today, Uganda has entered the club of engine manufacturers; we shouldn’t go back. She praised Makerere Sanitizer: “While many women complain that there are many types of sanitizer on the market that make their hands dry, I’m amazed that my hands are still wet and soft hours after using your sanitizer. “