Deputy minister of information and communication technology Modestus Amutse addresses Higher Education Institutions Innovation Summit, Nairobi, Kenya

Modestus Amutse

It is my distinct honour to stand before you here today to deliver my speech at this very important platform. This is a platform that, in my personal view, presents an opportunity to remind us of the importance of higher education institutions (HEI) towards innovation and ultimately national development. Indeed, at this point in time where all our efforts are geared to lifting our socio-economic conditions, the nexus between HEI and innovation cannot be understated.

Innovation is considered one of the key drivers of the economy, and has now become a major component of growth for economies globally. Various studies have revealed the critical role of innovation in various aspects of the economy, such as global competitiveness, financial systems, quality of life, infrastructure development, employment, and trade, to mention a few. Consequently, many governments have put innovation at the centre of their growth strategies.

May I remind you that our lives are subjected to continuous changes and evolving phenomena. And, due to changes in our life circumstances, we are driven to devise new ways to overcome challenges and enhance efficiency. Examples of these changes are changing demographics and markets, the introduction of new knowledge or information, natural or manmade threats (e.g. climate change, war, disease, etc.), changes in regulations (e.g. new technical standards and requirements), or social and economic conditions (e.g. increasing lifespan, coupled with increased number of old-age illnesses) to name a few.

New knowledge enhances innovation opportunities. Research and development (R&D) plays a critical role in the innovation process. R&D really is that important – in fact, it is the wheels that drive innovation. Knowledge plays a central role in the creation of new products and services, and equally helps us address natural, social and environmental challenges. It is therefore of the utmost importance that our governments adequately invest resources in the production of knowledge and adopt appropriate policies and strategies to support R&D.

The main purpose of HEI is the production of knowledge. Knowledge is produced by conducting research. Successful nations with strong economies have realised their successes by investing in higher education.

Universities are considered relevant and distinctive actors to the innovative potential of societies. This holds particularly for basic research, for which universities and public research institutes are responsible, producing science-based knowledge upon which the development of new products, processes and services can be built.

National governments bear the responsibility of establishing, promoting and sustaining a dynamic National System of Innovation (NSI). However, this is only realisable through well-crafted science, technology and innovation (STI) policies and strategies.

Allow me to remind you that innovation is not a linear process, and that it is the result of interaction between governments, academia and business industries and diverse public policies. The level of interaction among these institutions determines a country’s innovative capacity.

As such, our governments are responsible for fostering and supporting innovation in several ways, including:

i)               Policy development

Governments can create policies and regulatory frameworks that encourage innovation by providing incentives, funding research and development (R&D), protecting intellectual property rights, and removing barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and innovators.

ii)             Investment in research and development

Governments often invest in R&D initiatives across various sectors, including science, technology, healthcare, energy, and education, to support the development of new technologies, products, and services with potential economic, social, and environmental benefits.

iii)            Funding

Governments provide funding, grants, loans, and tax incentives to support innovation activities, start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and research institutions, helping them overcome financial barriers and accelerate their growth and development.

Overall, the government’s role in innovation is multifaceted and essential for driving economic growth, improving public services, andaddressing societal challenges. By creating enabling environments, providing support mechanisms, and fostering collaboration and partnerships, governments can unlock the full potential of innovation to benefit society as a whole.

Lastly, as I near the end of my speech, allow me to remind you that as we emphasise the importance of R&D and innovation, we must always be mindful not to neglect other actors in the interaction of our innovation systems, especially the need for strong and vibrant university-industry linkages. 

A dynamic system of innovation is the bedrock of a successful economy.

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