Protect young innovators from predatory investors, State told

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022 18:56 | By
18-year-old Zetech University student Florida Korir prepares to operate a robot she developed with other colleagues at the University. The prototype won an international award in Geneva, Switzerland. PD/Oliver Musembi

Scholars have appealed to the government to devise ways of protecting young innovators from exploitation by some companies or investors.

Led by Zetech University Vice-Chancellor Prof Njenga Munene and Commission for University Education (CUE) official Prof Grace Njoroge, they accused some well established companies of defrauding the young innovators through “intellectual innovations theft.”

The VC raised the red flag during the Zetech University’s fourth Sustainable Innovations Conference that attracted over 70 exhibitors.

 Addressing the participants, Prof Munene revealed that the university and other institutions of higher learning had invested heavily on innovations, research and technology but some multinationals were making a fortune out of the young innovators who lack financial support and knowledge on how to protect their inventions. He now wants the government to formulate water-tight policies to protect the young innovators from exploitation.

“The companies that sponsor the youths enter into partnership with the innovators and once the products are improvised and fully developed, the sponsors register them then introduce them to the market to the peril of these youth ,” Prof Munene said.

He lamented that the trend has discouraged many young innovators, some of them from poor families who hope to make a livelihood out of their innovations.

Learners employing themselves

Zetech University, he said, has made it mandatory for its students to study entrepreneurship and ICT as a course adding that this would help the learners employ themselves at the end adding that every Innovation must be registered under their names.  “By doing so, cases of rampant theft of innovation would be a thing of the past,” he added.

 Prof Njoroge also the CUE Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of accreditation maintained that the youth should be supported to exploit their potential and not exploited. She also challenged students to incorporate innovations in their studies to remain relevant in the current job market regardless of their area of specialization.

Noting that young people were the drivers of the economy, she urged them to invest in harnessing the potential of technology and innovations in helping the society deal with complex global challenges and achieve sustainable prosperity for humanity. She added that Kenya is becoming a global hub of technology and innovations, thus the need for the government to fully fund research and technology.

Prof Njoroge disclosed that such a proposal is already on the table awaiting the approval by the new Cabinet Secretary.

 However, Prof Njoroge said there was a need for strengthening universities-Industry collaboration for the development of innovations in mature and emergent industries in newly industrializing countries.

Young innovators

 She further said this will create awareness and make the young innovators be easily identified for job placement by the potential employers. She further noted that the formal sector was absorbing only 10 percent of labour at the moment, adding that 90 percent is left to be filled by technology and innovations.

One of the innovators is first-year Bachelor of Science, Information and Technology student at Zetech Florida Korir,18, who together with other students had developed a robot that won a silver award recently in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms Korir said the robotic and automation trends are increasingly gaining momentum in the advance of technology. She said they are gearing up towards inventing domestic oriented robotic innovations for the work environment which would address some of the domestic work challenges.

“As time goes, robots will be cleaning the environment, working in the kitchen and farms as that is where the world is going,” said Florida.

 Another exhibitor is Nicholas Mugambi of JKUAT who founded My-Kura, an innovative voting application that enables voters to track their votes online and can be used by election managers to weed out election cheating.

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