On the side-lines of the just-concluded African Drone Forum held in Kigali last week, Leapr Labs- a local aero-systems and Robotics Company made remarkable achievements.
The company signed partnerships with a number of global drone companies, including, Wingcopter, a Germany drone company and one of the most prominent companies in Europe, South Korea’s Hojung Solutions and Unconsystem Company and Chemnitz University of Technology.
The emerging tech-company is the only Rwandan company to participate in the Lake Kivu Challenge, a competition that seeks to showcase the latest drone revolution and trends. The competition is underway in Karongi District Western Province.
The challenge which brought together 11 global drone companies also focused on electric drone technology with vertical landing or short landing capability that are low cost and capable of high frequency flights, according to organizers.
The New Times’ Edwin Ashimwe spoke to Serge Tuyihimbaze, the company’s Managing Director about a range of issues including the milestones, innovation, and trends in the sector.
Last week, your company signed a number of MoUs with global drone companies including, Chemnitz University of Technology, that is such a milestone. Who is Leapr Labs? What was the inspiration behind the firm? And when did it start?
Leapr Labs is a community of Rwandan scientists and technologists seeking to create impact by translating scientific research into societal solutions.
At the onset, the main objective of our company was to develop local talents and enable locally made solutions rather than import the technologies. Rwanda has enough young innovators who can support the sector and transcend it to a global innovation reference. But in most cases, we as young people are not together, so the idea was to put together the skills and see what we can amass to.
Serge Tuyihimbaze, Managing Director, Leapr Labs.
It has been two years Leapr Labs running different programs for young engineers to enhance their skills and also develop solutions.
Let’s talk about your innovation. How does it differ from other Labs that already exist in Rwanda?
The Labs existing in Rwanda are mostly focusing on a co-working space and business incubation for start-ups.
This makes Leapr Labs the only private Research and Development Company that focuses on deep technologies.
Needless to mention, we have a different approach, which is to “Define, Design, Develop and Deploy” solutions. (4Ds)
You were able to ink deals with different global drone technologies. What do you seek from the partnership?
Talking about the partnerships, I want to admit, that was one of our biggest achievements. Prior to the partnerships, there was a shortage of technical and methodology support in the course of marketing and co-branding of UAV based solutions on the local market.
Besides, we believe that when you go together you reach far, and our target is to enable young tech talents to grow and develop sustainable economy.
You can ink a number of partnerships, but what matters most is the result you get out of them. What are your expectations from these deals?
To start with, we expect to gain mutual benefits on technology transfer and other different innovation around drones that might build some solutions together, capacity building, while using the opportunity of talent we have here.
However, the signing will also help to significantly speed our growth, share our experiences, contribute to the high international demand, tap into different other emerging markets with regards to global expansion.
And most importantly, these partnerships will contribute in developing the ICT industry, stimulating job creation and promoting socio-economic development in the country. So we believe that this will expand the local innovation model to the rest of the region.
Besides the deals, you are also among the 11 drone companies competing in the Lake Kivu Challenge, what does such a competition mean to you? Does it expose you to any other business platforms?
This kind of competition means measuring competence, sharing and expanding networks, it stimulates more ideas and partnerships.
Is the award in sight? Already have plans for the $400,000 prize,?
(Laughs) Well for now I can say that there are no plans for loosing. Because, our targeted win was not only the prize, but the progress we made to the final stage.
As for our plan, we want to have more Rwandan and African Engineers participating in the Aero-systems and robotics Solutions development circle, not just as users of the technologies but developers too.
As an emerging tech company, what would you say are the major milestones you are proud about?
I am mostly proud about our team and the ability to grab the opportunities our government creates for young innovators and start-ups in Rwanda.
I personally believe that the synergy between our public and private institutions will always shape the way.
Going forward, are there plans of diversifying your products and services?
Of course, we shall explore more into what technologies can help us to solve Africa’s biggest Challenges. Thanks to our country’s political vision which embraces technology and innovation. It is through such meetings that we as start-ups develop our ideas.Follow https://twitter.com/EdwinAshimwe