Botswana has set up a national innovation fund (NIF) to provide seed and early-stage capital for technical start up projects in the country. This was revealed by Professor Nelson Torto at the 12th annual conference of the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA).
He added that ventures and already established companies that have viable, innovative ideas would also benefit from the innovation fund.
“The government of Botswana must be commended for making strong commitments in the area of science and technology. The Botswana parliament has already approved the National Innovation Fund which will provide seed and early stage funding for technology based start-ups and ventures as well as established companies with viable innovation concepts,” said Prof Torto.
He said government is making significant strides and mapping the landscape of science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) to strengthen national frameworks. He added that over the past 60 years, both developed and developing countries have increased the number of SETI government bodies, established new SETI legal frameworks and implemented a diverse set of new SETI policy instruments.
“The fact is, science, engineering, technology and innovation hold answers to new complex challenges that governments are facing,” he said.
In this light, Torto said, Botswana was faced with a challenge of reforming and upgrading the country’s science systems as well as building capacity for monitoring and evaluating performance. Meanwhile, Dr Alphonsus Neba of the University of Botswana Research and Development office said at the same conference that the amount of research and development (R&D) investment in African universities impedes researchers to make research that can have a real impact that is beneficial to society. Industries, he said were not involved in research and development in the African continent, which leads to poor development of research in universities. He said some policies which conflict with research efforts and technology transfer for innovation also play a role.
“Data from American universities shows that total institutional research expenditure can go up to $25 billion dollars. This indicates the enormous effort that goes into technology transfer within universities. In comparison, the research budget for most African universities would not even come close to $1 million dollars. A lot of African Universities are still focusing on basic research with very little developmental or applied research taking place,” he said.
He furthermore expressed concern over the fact that most industries in African countries outside South Africa have no researchcapability.