On April 15, the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund organised an exhibition for the public to engage with some of the researchers and innovators from Makerere University College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS).
As ERNEST JJINGO writes, the Shs 60bn fund has empowered hundreds of innovators to provide key solutions in the sectors of health, farming as well as information and communications technology.
At the College of Computing and Information Sciences, dozens of exhibitors were on hand to welcome guests for the special event.
In many ways, it was sort of accountability for each exhibitor’s grant. Unlike farming exhibitions where exhibits are material stuff, most of this exhibition was digital and touched areas of taxation, healthcare as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
For one, Alex Mwotil stood out with his development of Crane Cloud, an open-source multi-cloud service layer for highly available cloud-based services in Africa.
Basically, Crane Cloud helps you to avoid the complexity and high expense of purchasing and managing a user’s own physical servers and other related infrastructure. Mwotil explained that Crane Cloud manages the infrastructure while you the user manage your applications and you get to only pay for what you use.
“You only get to pay for the resource usage for your project or the applications therein. Before you run away because I mentioned payment, Crane Cloud is focused not only on a great user experience but also a great experience pocket-wise; as it has a free plan as of the date of writing this post,” he told Judith Nabakooba, the minister of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance.
Meanwhile, as the country continues to devise solutions to simplify learning in the post-Covid-9 era, Dr Joyce Bukirwa and team showcased their efforts to develop a community mobile library service system to reach out to learners in their homes.
Also present was the automated feedback module for smallholder farmers (AFeMoS). This technology is a mobile-based reporting system for farmers that links them to experts.
What caught my eye most was the weather station that was cheaply improvised. It has the capacity to measure the rain, wind and temperature. So impressed was Prof William Bazeyo, the chairperson of the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund, that he proposed to customise it to the different regions of Uganda to help farmers understand the weather patterns.
“At Makerere, we have more than 1,000 innovations right now; I hope this exhibition will drive researchers to improve their work,” he said.
Bazeyo added that the university is gifted with brains that if beefed up and supported financially may improve the country’s balance of payments.
“We are endowed with scientists and people that have innovations in their heads. What was lacking was us to know where to take the innovations. With government’s support towards science, I strongly believe Uganda can tap into them because they are relevant for the country. There are many things we don’t need to buy anymore from abroad because our people are able to do them.”
What was clear from the open day is that Makerere University is approaching the peak of research and innovation. On her part, Nabakooba said government is following up research and innovation at the university and is willing to help with more funding.
“I’m glad this system can provide real-time information that is accurate and this will go a long way to help farmers with seasons. As government, I want to pledge our full support,” she said.
In 2019, Makerere University received a special funding from government to support high-impact research and innovations that informs national development priorities. This initiative arose from a series of discussions between the top university management and government.
The objective of the fund is to increase the local generation of translatable research and scalable innovations that address key gaps required to drive Uganda’s development agenda, especially the unfunded priorities.
How does one access the fund?
The Research and Innovation Fund is open to researchers from all academic colleges of Makerere University who have research that aligns with national priorities.
The initial round of funding focused on already-existing research and innovation ideas among researchers. Issuance of the initial grants was based on a competitive process in response to a Request for Applications.
The fund is open to anyone with a research and innovation idea that has a clear connection to critical knowledge gaps in the national development plan, relevant sector development plans, or the sustainable development goals.
Going forward, the grant will be based on a research agenda drawn from wider consultations with researchers, government sectors, the National Planning Authority, implementing partners, and a review of the University’s Research Agenda.