Winners of BioInnovate Africa grants announced

Eleven research teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have received grants  totalling US$ 6 million, to enable them turn their innovative ideas and technologies, based on biological sciences, into viable businesses.

The funding has been provided by the Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (BioInnovate Africa) Programme, a regional initiative currently operational in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, with the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Winners of BioInnovate Africa grants
Winners of BioInnovate Africa grants

Among the winners of the grants are three innovative technologies and products led by scientists from Makerere University, Uganda, which include: a technology that will use heat radiation mechanisms to dry and package fruits and vegetables in a manner that preserves natural quality; a proposal to develop agribusinesses by ensuring all-year-round production and processing of insects that are traditionally consumed in Africa, for instance grasshoppers (nsenene) and crickets; an initiative to produce new, conveniently and attractively packaged sorghum and millet products, that can be consumed instantly in various solid forms, or as malted drinks; and strategies to integrate information communication technologies (ICT) in the production and marketing of  tissue culture  sweetpotato vines to increase yields.

Three projects led by researchers from Tanzania have also been selected. They include University of Dar es Salaam researchers, who will scale-up production and commercialisation of a renewable fertilizer that is fortified with nitrogen from biodegradable waste obtained in urban centres. Their counterparts from the Tanzania Institute of Research and Development have been granted funds to avail across Africa a more efficient material (known technically as a substrate), that will significantly enhance smallholder mushroom cultivation.

Kenya-led initiatives include an innovative industrial processing technology by the University of Nairobi, which greatly improves, through time efficiency, reduction of wastage, and reduced environmental pollution, the dehairing of leather and descaling fish, among other procedures. Maize and finger millet varieties, that are resistant to the obnoxious Striga weed, a major challenge in Kenya and Uganda, developed by Maseno University, will also benefit from the funding.  

Two scientists from the International Centre of Insect Phyisology will lead the commercialisation of biopesticides developed from fungi, and to promote strategies and technologies that will enable disinfestation of pests from fruits and vegetables from Africa, thereby unlocking access to lucrative overseas markets.

While these teams are led by scientists from the above mentioned institutions, they involve 51 other institutions (over 50% of them private sector companies) distributed in the five countries as project team members or partners.

The 11 winners were announced during a high-level forum on developing a bioeconomy in eastern Africa, held in Kigali, Rwanda, on 3 and 4 November 2017, through a partnership between the country’s National Council for Science and Technology (NCST); icipe, and the Nairobi headquartered BioInnovate Africa programme.

Notes for Editors

BioInnovate Africa (The Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development) Programme is a regional initiative supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to assist countries in eastern Africa benefit from the revolutionary advances in biosciences, converting these technologies into innovations for inclusive growth and sustainable development. BioInnovate is based at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi, Kenya, and currently operates in six eastern African countries namely: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. BioInnovate Africa evolved from BioEARN – a regional network of research excellence in biosciences founded in 1999. In Phase I (2010 – 2015), the Programme focused on building innovation consortia/platforms on crop improvement technologies, value added products from millet and sorghum, sustainable utilisation of agro industrial waste and bioscience innovation policies. In Phase II (2016 – 2021), BioInnovate Africa will build on these efforts, with more emphasis on linking biobased ideas and technologies to business by developing and piloting economically viable biobased technologies and products; and engaging policymakers to evaluate relevant policy options that support bioscience innovations.

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (www.icipe.org), is a world-class research centre whose mission is to contribute towards poverty reduction, food security, better health and environmental protection across the developing world, by enhancing the capacity of researchers and communities to produce and utilise insect sciences. icipe is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, with a country office in Ethiopia and several field stations in Kenya. The Centre currently has operations in 30 African countries, and thriving partnerships with universities and research organisations across the world. 

Contacts
For further information, contact: BioInnovate Programme Management Office,
Email: bioinnovate@icipe.org, Tel: 254 (20) 863 2433