Protecting Innovators – The Reason for AfricanBrains

Our recent post “Kenya: High Costs Deny Students Ability to Patent Innovations” talks of how students in Kenya are losing out on having their innovations protected due to the high costs of applying for patents. With an initial application fee of Sh5,000 some students prefer to sell their innovations to researchers at lower rates. Innovative students are being frustrated by lacking trusted mentors and ultimately not having the funding to develop their ideas. These high costs are a barrier to entry that is exactly the reason why AfricanBrains was formed – for forward thinking, intelligent Africans to network and propose new ideas and technologies to the world.

Both theoretical and empirical evidences have shown that technological innovation and entrepreneurship play an important role in fostering the development of today’s industrialised nations. Innovation, both technological and scientific, is one of the key ingredients to sustained economic growth and improved social prosperity. This is because the development of technological innovation and the capacity to translate such innovation into entrepreneurial ventures is a positive step in the direction of socio-economic development. Also, entrepreneurship is the function of innovation because it is the factor that establishes new combinations of means of production.

In Africa, the main challenge in innovation seems to be not a lack of ideas, but a deficit in the evaluation and transformation of ideas into new processes or products. Hence, one of the critical challenges facing developing nations, like African countries, is how to successfully transverse the ‘valley of death’ between research resources and commercialisation resources, which is occasioned by the inadequate technology entrepreneurial skill among the researchers, lack of funding, and lack of private sector interest and/or poor linkage between the academic and the industry.

The internet has changed everything in terms of access to market. AfricanBrains is aimed at filling that gap between innovation and commercialisation. We are the first networking site in the world to offer you the opportunity to submit new ideas which we take to companies and investors. Any submissions are automatically copyrighted in your name and our international network of assessors reach out to the global business community offering them the opportunity to invest in your ideas.

The work of AfricanBrains involves two key aspects. Firstly we embark on the protection of your ideas and insurance of non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with commercial partners. Secondly, once we have gained interest from commercial partners, we will work with them (at all stages updating you and obtaining approvals from you where appropriate) to maximise the commercial return on your inventions or innovations.

In Kenya, Anti-Counterfeit Agency Director Onesmus Kipchumba admitted that university and college students showcased noble innovations during various exhibitions countrywide, but faulted them for disclosing more about the discoveries before they are patented. This is the case all across Africa and hence we encourage the use of the AfricanBrains networking site where all activity and submission of innovations has an “electronic trail” identifying the originator.

The work of individual innovators also needs to be backed up by policies such as:

* Need for training on technology entrepreneurship for the researchers in our universities and research institutes.

* Direct government investment into technology innovation and less of a reliance on NGO’s and donor-driven support

* Effective collaboration arrangement between private sector and research institutions.

* Formulation of policy to protect intellectual property and also ensure adequate reward for any research that leads to innovation beyond the normal promotion for the researchers.

* Introduction of entrepreneurship education from primary school education to university. This will change the mindset of the coming generation to see self-employment as best option to paid employment.

Yet time waits for no man and a reliance on insitutional support can be frustrating. The very best entrepreneurs realise this early on and forge ahead themselves, ensuring they are in charge of their own destiny. For innovators wishing to pursue their ideas within a trusted community and to have the opportunity to earn a living from their intelligence and forethought then AfricanBrains is the place to start.

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