IIEC- Meru University of Science and Technology Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Centre

Background

The Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Centre (IIEC) was established during the University`s first graduation ceremony on 26th July, 2013. The founding Chancellor, Dr. James Mwangi donated Kenya shillings One Hundred Million (KSh100, 000,000/=) as a seed fund for development of the Centre.  The Centre was envisioned to nurture the creation and development of industrial based knowledge through innovation, incubation, acceleration and commercialization of innovative ideas. The Centre is designed to nurture and support the industrial, technological and scientific innovations from Must University Science and Technology (MUST) students, alumni, staff, regional and global researchers/innovators. The innovations and incubations developed at IIEC and commercialized in the industries would significantly contribute to solving socio-economic development challenges and complement the government’s effort of transforming the national economy through employment and wealth creation.

Vision, Mission, Philosophy and Objectives of the Centre

Vision:            A global innovation and entrepreneurship centre of excellence

Mission:          Nurture, mentor, empower and sustain innovation and

                        entrepreneurship initiatives for global businesses

PhilosophyThe Centre is founded on the philosophy of idea stimulation, incubation and enterprising of science and technology innovations for economic development

ObjectivesThe core objective of the centre is to avail an enabling environment for the development of business ideas for incubation, innovation, acceleration, dissemination and commercialized to create wealth for posterity.

In particular to:

  1. Stimulate development and/or identification of existing innovations
  2. Support and/or accelerate the development of innovations into prototype products/services
  3. Incubate the prototype innovations and/or companies to commercial independence
  4. Generate and/or source for funding to sustain the IIEC

Advisory Board

The Centre has an Advisory Board chaired by Rt. (Amb). Dr. Muthaura. Other members of the Board includes Mr. Silas K. Kobia (Managing Trustee, Lukiko Consulting Trust), Mr. George Njenga (General Electric -Sub Sahara Africa), Eng.  Rosemary Gitonga  (Chief Manager – Research & Extension, KPLC), Mr. James Mworia  (Group Chief Executive Officer, Centum), Mr. Francis Njogu  ( Tullow Oil – Kenya), Prof. Japhet K. Magambo  Vice-Chancellor, (MUST) and Prof. Charity Gichuki (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Administration, Finance & Planning, MUST).The Advisory Board provides policy direction, source for funds and promote the Centre development initiatives at regional and global arenas.

Leadership

The Centre is managed by a Director who is responsible for day to day running of the Centre under general direction of the University Management. In particular, the Director provides strategic, managerial and operational leadership at the Centre including coordination of routine activities, development and implementation of centre policies, procedures and action plans. Further, the Director coordinate talent search, link the industry mentors/collaborators and innovators/incubators as well as develop funding proposals for the Centre activities and manage funded projects and programmes.

Call for ideas

The Centre invites innovative and creative ideas from staff, students and other interested parties with a view of supporting the development of the same into viable commercial product. Potential innovators are requested to consult with the Centre Director for additional information. Meanwhile, potential innovators can reach the Centre Director on 0721 820562 in Academic Block A, room AA16 for any enquiry.

Incubation

Meru university of Science Technology has a dedicated innovation and entrepreneurship center that provides all services pertaining research, innovation and commercialization. Research is the anchor that has from time to time produced wonderful innovations. After research results in an innovation, the process of protecting the idea starting with a temporary protection as further research is done to ensure that the product developed is of superior quality. Product development then ensues which is developed concurrently with the business model. The business model provides an avenue of understanding the development circle of the product and how it will be up scaled.

At the stage of product development, product development depends on internal or external grants won. The university through the Technology Transfer office (TTO) and Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) helps in ensuring that the product is protected, piloted and any other improvements are done before a process of getting investors begins. Suffice to say, there is a committee MUST Institutional Research Ethics Review Committee (MIRERC) that ensures all research work is ethically reviewed. This step reduces ethical conflicts that often arise from the handling products. Then the TTO office through networking seeks funds for the best innovations.

The Meru University Incubation center located at the innovation center not only caters for innovations from within the University but also those from outside. The incubation center provides a platform where products are refined to meet customer specific needs. The Incubation center has also partnered with National Research Fund to incubate some innovations even as they transition to the market. Some of the innovations that have been incubated at the MUST incubation center include;

  1. Competence Network for E-Inclusion and Assistive Technologies (CNEAT) Research Project (CNEAT)

The CNEAT project began as a research project in 2015. The researchers realized that physically differently abled students are always neglected when it comes to education. This gap elicited the desire to patch this gap with a technology that would help this group of learners. The project received funding from NRF in 2017 as Meru was chosen to be the incubation center for the initiative.

  1. CNEAT
  2. Sanitary dispenser and incinerators
  3. Smart brooder
  4. Gluten free bread
  5. The sixth sense
  6. Value Added Carmel milk products
Dorothy Bundi

In this photo is Ms. Dorothy Bundi one of the innovators in the CNEAT project at the incubation center in Meru University.

The entrepreneurship and innovation center provides a space where the researchers of the CNEAT project carry out training of trainers. The Trainers are train tutors and caregivers, creating studying manuals, disseminating assistive technology skills and knowledge through exhibitions, conferences, seminars, workshops and social media platforms. This has proven to be successful with differently abled students gaining interest in technology and increasing participation within the schools.

So far, this technology has been piloted in three learning centers with a desirability from both the learners and the tutors. A link to what the researchers, innovators, learners and tutors had to say about this project is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10vNGpioOL4 

2. Sanitary dispenser and incinerators

This idea originated from the practice of having male protective gears at the washroom. There are moments when ladies who experience irregular monthly periods get their menses when they don’t expect. Having sanitary pad dispenser located at the ladies’ washrooms seeks to avert this occurrence. To avoid misuse of these sanitary pads especially in public washrooms, the users will be required to insert some coins or use Mpesa to pay for the pads to be dispensed. After using a sanitary pad, proper disposal is encouraged. The idea of the incinerator was actualized to ensure that all the sanitary pads that will be disposed are properly disposed through burning in the incinerator.

This innovation was developed by Catherine Wajoya of Silmak Agencies. The product has been in the market since 2019 after a successful piloting and patenting of the 2 products in 2018. Their customer segments include learning institutions, waste management companies, factories, county governments public facilities and urban offices. Notable customers include Nairobi University, Jungle nut company Thika, IGAD office in Nairobi, Rombo Girls School, among others. The incinerators and dispensers are locally manufactured. They have been outsourcing the fabrication of the machine enclosures, import machine accessories and they assemble in their warehouse. They have had challenges with outsourcing the fabrication of the machine such as long lead times affecting our order fulfilment and poor workmanship. This is what has made them want to do in-house fabrication aside reduction of production costs. The demand for incinerators in schools has been increasing since the schools resumed. This is because they have discovered the same menstrual incinerators can be also incinerate used masks and other PPEs. Last year, they partnered with Safaricom and developed MPESA sanitary pad dispensers. They have co-branded this product.

Sanitary dispenser

A front view of the Sanitary dispenser

This product has been incubated in MUST for the last 3 years. Meru University though the incubation center ensures that the innovators follow the implementation/rolling out schedule as they submitted to KENIA. Partly, the incubation center ensures that the funds this innovation was allocated are utilized well. Finally, improvements to the product through automation and other adjustments have been realized through collaborations. A brief demonstration how the sanitary dispenser and the incinerator are here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0hw-yeUsHU , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYRrUBDyGHM.

3. Smart brooder

Based in Nairobi, Arinifu Technologies Ltd are a technology company whose cornerstone is innovation. They believe in stirring up innovation to come up with solutions directly addressing issues affecting farmers who tend to be the people who do the most work but reap the least. The Smart brooder is a project that aims to ease the work of hatching chicks.

After this innovation winning a grant for commercialization from NRF, MUST was tasked with incubation. Through the cooperation, the innovation was rolled out successfully. Noteworthy is the fact as part of information sharing the idea of automating the system arose.

George Chege one of the cofounders

George Chege one of the cofounders

4. The sixth sense

Hope Tech Plus Limited is founded on the belief that a healthy society is one where everyone participates in everyday activities regardless of their challenges. They work to facilitate the integration of visually impaired people in all aspects of the society by creating tools and programs for empowerment. They do this by leveraging on modern technology to create tools to improve interaction with the physical environment and to facilitate mobility for the visually impaired. Over the last 5 years, they have been committed to solving the mobility challenge for visually impaired people. This has involved a deep dive in understanding the problem space by regular interactions and co-design workshops with visually impaired people, partnership with key stakeholders such as the Kenya Institute for The Blind and market research.

They launched The 4th Eye device in August 2019 after successful development and piloting of the sixth sense and to date they have over 2,000 users across Kenya. This is a mobility device that can convert any white cane into a smart cane. It has helped blind and visually impaired people to access work places, schools and recreational facilities. After the company secured a commercialization grant from NRF, Meru University incubation center was tasked with ensuring that the product is rolled out as per the schedule they shared with NRF.

5. Value Added Carmel Milk

Camel milk is known to have nutritional and medicinal benefits including 5 times vitamin C compared to cow’s milk, it’s not allergic, it regulates insulin for diabetics, it also has anti-ageing properties Meru University of Science and Technology wishes to focus on production and marketing of pasteurised camel milk, camel milk yoghurt, camel milk powder and other products derived from camel milk including cosmetic products. The name Ka-Mero is derived from the Kimeru word Kamero. That means camel. Its split into two words to capture Mero to mean Meru University of Science and Technology.

Market Research Summary

Increased consumers’ awareness is increasing, leading to consumers opting for healthy foods. Camel milk is one of such foods. Rich in nutrients, hypoallergic, helps in autism, good for lactose intolerant people and diabetics. Currently, there are no camel milk products in the markets that are developed through rigorous research and product development. This has led to very low adoption by the consumers due to various challenges such as taste, smell and hygiene. Video detail; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsgvNNX70us

This project was incubated in Meru university where the lead researcher led his team members in underscoring the primary component of the camel milk and how to add value to the milk. The piloting phase was completed, the researchers determined the right ratios for bulk production of these products.