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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Innovation Fund gets Rwf375m boost

Government has injected Rwf375 million into the Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to support entrepreneurship development and research.
The funding announced yesterday by the Ministry of Education which oversees the exercise, was partly contributed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, through its Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa (UNECA SRO/EA). 

Beneficiaries will be required to submit their project proposals which will be verified by a group of experts who will, in turn, select projects which will receive up to US$50,000, according to education officials. 

The fund’s initial three priority areas are agriculture, Information Communication Technologies, and manufacturing.  

“The RIEF offers entrepreneurs and researchers who have innovative, market oriented products, services, or processes that they want to develop and commercialise,” Dr Marie-Christine Gasingirwa, Director-General of Science Technology and Research in the ministry, explained.

She urged entrepreneurs and researchers to engage in marketable projects and get support to implement their project. 

“We are targeting the youth first because normally the youth are power; we want to promote innovation and research because we have discovered that Rwanda has innovators who still lack support, “ she said.

Gasingirwa added that applicants should submit applications that demonstrate innovation and marketability, as well as a strong potential to contribute to the economic and social transformation in Rwanda. The kick-off date for submission of applications is October 15, 2012 and it will go on for a month.   

However applications will continue as the ministry expects more support from donors. The applicants can be individuals or groups.   

“The fact that Rwanda is among the first African countries to develop such a fund to support its innovators demonstrates its strong belief that investment in research and development in innovation is a national priority for development,” said Soteri Gatera, Head of Infrastructure and Natural Resources Development Cluster at UNECA SRO/EA

 “One UN in Rwanda is pleased to support this and other outstanding initiatives that promote the use of science, technology and innovation (STI) to achieve sustainable socio-economic development in Africa,” he added.

The awareness campaign will kick-off at the National University of Rwanda on October 10 and will continue in other universities like KIST, Umutara Polytechnic, ISAE-Busogo and Business Development Centres (BDC) in Karongi, Rwamagana and Musanze to conclude on October 26 at Kigali’s kLab. It will target youth, entrepreneurs and researchers.  

The Ministry of Education is also working closely with the Private Sector Federation, BDCs, higher institutions of learning and youth cooperatives to reach out to potential applicants in Rwanda and the Diaspora. 

The Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund, an initiative of the government in partnership with the UNECA and One UN, was established in April 2012 with the vision to transform Rwanda’s currently agricultural based economy to a knowledge based one by 2020 and to use science, technology and ICT as a key enabler of this transformation. 

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