The University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology has announced a fresh drive to promote research and innovation among students and staff.
This was announced Tuesday at the opening of the second annual Research and Innovation Week in Science and Technology that is taking place at the College under the theme: “Science and Technology as the driver of economic transformation in Africa.”
At the meeting, researchers, students, professionals, government officials, representatives of NGOs and business leaders are discussing opportunities for community and development oriented research.
Activities that are lined up for the campaign include research presentations, innovation exhibitions, as well as networking opportunities for different stakeholders.
According to Prof. Manasse Mbonye, the principal of the College of Science and Technology, they have a deliberate plan to promote research and innovation.
“Starting from the last academic year, we have revised the programme to ensure our graduates are competent enough to do any job or create their own. Projects that students used to do in the final year are being done from the second year while subjects like research methodology, entrepreneurship are being taught early so that students grasp them as they go higher. We are also organising competitions where a group of students work on projects together from second year,” he said.
But most of these projects have failed due to lack of financial support.
To address the issue, Prof. Mbonye said the College will work with the private sector to finance good projects.
“We need private institutions such as banks to come and check out these projects for themselves and identify which ones they would finance,” he said.
The Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, who also attended the meeting, said the drive is important for the country.
“For us to achieve the Vision 2020, we need intellectuals to help develop different sectors. When you look at the needs of our society, we need capabilities, skills. For instance, in infrastructure development, we need engineers, architects, electricians, road engineers, IT specialists, among others,’’ he said.
“We need to develop capacities of young people to be able to respond to our socio- economic development challenges.
‘‘This programme helps us to promote research and innovation among the youth so that they become job creators, and link the knowledge with the existing challenges to transform our economy,” he said.
Cyprien Mahoro, one of the students who presented a construction project, said the programme is important for them.
“This is a channel through which we demonstrate our projects and learn from others. Students should think deeply and come up with something that can help develop the country.
“This competition is really important as it encourages students to innovate,” said Boaz Ntakirutimana, one of the graduates who presented a “Mobile-based mutual health insurance payment project”, a system that allows people to pay electronically.
Prof. Nelson Ijumba, the deputy vice chancellor in charge of research and academic affairs at the University of Rwanda, said research at the university is improving.
“When the university was formed, the output of research was very low. If you measure the output in terms of number of applications per staff, per year, it was 0.08. Apart from former National University of Rwanda and KIST, all the other institutions were not doing research. We put in place a strategy to boost research. By last year, the output per staff had gone up to 0.15,” he said.
“Our target is for every staff member to produce a paper every year. The number of papers produced so far is between 300 and 400 which is way below the target because we have about 1600 staff members,” he said.
He explained that the strategy also looks to upgrade staff qualifications.
“When we started, about 18 per cent of our staff members had PhD, now we are at 20 per cent against the target of 50 to 60 per cent in the next ten years. We have made it a requirement for our staff to register for a PhD,” he said.