The National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) on Wednesday, October 18 awarded four researchers for their 'outstanding' contributions to addressing societal challenges at the national level. The awards were presented at the conclusion of the NCST Pre-Council Meeting Symposium, which was organised to provide valuable insights into research outputs for socio-economic development. The event took place at the Kigali Serena Hotel. ALSO READ: NCST awards 15 innovative projects, concludes 7th council meeting Dr. Egide Kalisa received the Most Accomplished Researcher Award, which came with a prize of Rwf 10 million. Prof. Jean-Marie Ntaganda was honoured as the Most Innovative Researcher and was awarded Rwf 8 million. Dr. Peace Bamuligire was recognised with the Women Researcher Award, which also carried a prize of Rwf 8 million while Dr. Kizito Nkurikiyeyezu was presented with the Promising Young Researcher Award and received Rwf 6 million. The call for abstracts, which resulted in the four awards, was extended to all Rwandan national researchers across various sectors including business, government, higher education, and private non-profit organizations in September. The invitation was aimed at those engaged in ongoing research studies, research-funded projects with ground-breaking ideas and solutions, technology development, new evidence-based scientific advancements, and innovative products and services in the fields of sustainable energy, food security, life and health sciences, local production, digital services, as well as the preservation of a resilient environment and natural resources. ALSO READ: Rwanda to become hub for AI research in Africa Speaking during the awarding ceremony, Gaspard Twagirayezu, the Minister of Education, congratulated the awardees and emphasised the importance of celebrating scientists and their contributions to a growing knowledge-based economy. He expressed hope for more such events to celebrate those in various fields, including science, arts, and sports. Twagirayezu further highlighted the significance of supporting science and technology, particularly in the context of artificial intelligence (AI), a field that is gaining prominence. You know that Rwanda has published AI policy, and it has several pillars. These pillars revolve around capacity development, research, and coordination,” he said, adding that there is a need for coordination among individuals from the agriculture, research, and education sectors to make use of AI. ALSO READ: Rwanda needs $76m to implement new AI policy Twagirayezu further pushed for establishing more effective platforms to facilitate collaboration and harness the potential of emerging technologies and fields. He viewed NCST Meeting symposium as an opportunity to enhance collaboration and make the most of emerging technologies and knowledge. Jean-Pierre Rukundo, the Founder and CEO of Beno Holdings Ltd, is a close collaborator of Dr. Egide Kalisa, who has been honoured as the Most Accomplished Researcher. In an interview with The New Times, Rukundo shed light on their joint project titled “It’s Time for Electric Buses in Rwanda,” which is centred on research and development within the private sector. He explained that their research sheds light on air pollution caused by motor vehicle emissions, identifying two major problems: air pollution near schools and overloading of trucks. Rukundo said they proposed solutions to the issues. “For schools, we recommended using electric buses instead of private cars to reduce pollution. We found out that parents' idling vehicles are major contributors. These vehicles also negatively affect children's mental health,” he said. To address overloading, Rukundo said their research recommends developing sensors to monitor vehicle weight and limit excess cargo, with the possibility of fines for non-compliance. The researcher expressed gratitude for winning an award for the project, emphasising the collective effort of their team and partners as key enablers. In addition to the project, Beno Holdings Ltd has undertaken several noteworthy initiatives, such as the development of speed governors for automobiles and a cutting-edge smart white cane designed to assist individuals with visual impairments. During the event, NCST also presented the Best STI Communicator Award to Patrick Nzabonimpa, a reporter for The New Times, in recognition of his contribution to raising awareness about science, technology, and innovation in Rwanda. He was offered a prize amounting to Rwf 6 million.