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Innovators should not give up hope – TechCon winner

The November 1, 2016 closure of Makerere University found GRACE NAKIBAALA on her way to the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) innovators' competition known as TechCon 2016.

This innovator, under the university's school of Public Health, developed the PedalTap, as her contribution to improving hygiene among students and the public. The innovation won a second-place prize in the Products and Services category. She talked to us about her win at TechCon.

It was an honour for me to have been part of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network TechCon 2016 from November 10 to November 12, 2016 at MIT. I can confidently say that my participation greatly enriched my experience through this rich journey of creatively thinking and innovating to address communities’ most pressing challenges.

My participation in the TechCon 2016 innovation marketplace opened a lot of different thoughts about the innovation ‘PedalTap’, (where one uses a pedal to turn on a tap) which we are currently working on.  

Grace Nakibaala explains her PedalTap innovation at MIT, USA

This exposure also rebuilt my strength as an innovator with a goal to improve hand hygiene in different target communities through providing both products and services. The competition in the innovation marketplace was fierce, battling with amazing innovations and innovators.


Being an individual participant for my team with teams that had their entire members around, made the environment even more scary. I had to think of numerous strategies to reach more marketplace participants, how to appropriately share the main points about the PedalTap innovation.

I had to raise the most dollars from the crowd to be able to run for the top three positions in the product and service category. It is my passion, thoughtfulness and dedication to my work, innovation and women leadership/ power, it is me being relentless.

Innovators and dear readers, the rich opportunities in the marketplace provided me with rich insights throughout the process which started with the submission of our applications to pitching, gathering feedback and support for the future while networking with all the seemingly-interested attendees.

Beyond the PedalTap win, which is a great achievement for the PedalTap team, I was also able to leverage partnership to further support refining of the product, moving it from pilot to scale. It was also at this marketplace where I met the team helping us refine the PedalTap business model.

We also received numerous feedback and comments about the innovation, which we are currently using to refine the product and prepare for scaling. With continued engagement with all the contacts we made through TechCon 2016, we will be able to realize impact in our communities.

The PedalTap win at the TechCon 2016 innovation marketplace competition has also given PedalTap and the team visibility both locally and internationally. I can say that the world knows Grace Nakibaala, the young female architect, who is going to change hand hygiene through innovating products and services; that will improve hand hygiene practices at public water points, reducing infection spread, while saving water in our communities.

I was also one of the speakers at the closing plenary, sharing my vision for the Next Generation practitioners. I shared about the need for the next-generation practitioner to be relentless.

The Makerere University team, led by Prof William Bazeyo (L), with Grace Nakibaala (2nd L) displaying their awards

It is my relentlessness that has enabled me persevere, as I work towards my dream of developing products that ease hand hygiene to prevent the spread and frequency of potent and infectious diseases at public water points at the same time saving water.

In addition, the side events, panel discussions, and sessions that mainly focused on creative approaches to solution ideation, testing and scaling for international development were a rich learning opportunity. All the knowledge acquired is helping the PedalTap team further shape the innovation for impact and business.

TechCon was worthwhile and beyond my hard work, I remain forever indebted to Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) for their continued support.

RAN has supported us through their pitch Tuesdays, innovation garage sessions, where we were introduced to the RAN partners including Innovation Consortium Limited, who have also supported innovators through the proof of concept and fabrication of all prototypes that have been piloted in Kampala and beyond.

With all the resources RAN provides to innovators, I have greedily scooped all of them, attending all trainings that they offer, benefiting from one of their grants, using their space and seeking guidance from all the staff to help PedalTap and even individual innovators reach the height of innovation.

I’m also very glad that RAN fully supported my travel to MIT for TechCon 2016. I pledge to continue sharing the learning experiences with many students, youth and innovators which I hope will encourage them to be relentless about their dreams.

I’m proud to be an innovator. The future is in our hands.


0 #1 Josephine Nakibuule 2017-01-06 13:09
Congratulations on this win Grace, and it's only the beginning of better things to come! You are most deserving my dear

God bless you!
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