Catholic University of Eastern Africa Unveils its Innovation Hub

On 26th April 2022, the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) launched its Innovation Hub. The hub was established through the African Higher Education Leadership in Advancing Inclusive Innovation for Development (AHEAD) Project funded by Erasmus Plus and the European Union. It is dedicated to students, faculty, alumni, and community mentors who come together to collaborate in developing research and innovative ideas that can solve challenges facing humanity. The objective of the hub is to develop and nurture innovative ideas that once mature can be commercialised and scaled thereby not only tapping and nurturing the talents of young people but also solving real problems, creating opportunities, ultimately generating wealth and alleviating poverty in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

The vision of CUEA is to be a world-class University producing transformative leaders for Church and Society. The Hub plugs into its Research and Community Service pillars creating an innovation ecosystem that brings together a network of people and institutions to create new knowledge and innovations that can feed back into the classroom as well as provide solutions.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Dr. Marc J. Holley, the Vice President, Conrad Hilton Foundation (CNHF) congratulated the University for the hub. He noted that the project had the potential of benefiting young innovators with big dreams of developing solutions for Kenya and the indeed the world. CNHF is a charity organisation that supports programs in the areas of generating new knowledge, giving voice to issues and joining with others to achieve measurable impact. Also speaking at the launch, the University Vice Chancellor, Very Rev. Prof. Stephen Mbugua Ngari invited the industry for partnership in scaling this noble idea. The hub was blessed by Most Rev. Phillip Anyolo, the Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi and Pro-Chancellor of CUEA.

The hub provides a vital shift from theory to practical learning which creates a great connection between the Faculties, Students, Alumni, Researchers, Pastoral agents, with industry in positively responding to human challenges such as inequalities, health, climate change, while at the same time tapping into technological opportunities that come with internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence and block chain technologies.

The CUEA Innovation Hub provides a physical working space, computers, consultancy and research databases for the collaborators to generate and incubate ideas. It also provides start-up and entrepreneurship support, organises competitions and mentorship schemes for students and alumni with a view to encouraging the creation and scaling of enterprises. It establishes contacts with grassroots innovators, facilitates transfer of technologies and knowledge across the University and its partners, raises funds to support its work and scalable ideas, organizes training and innovation forums as well as provides an experimentation space. The hub is a well-equipped facility that comes with an interaction space with Wiki capabilities to support stakeholder interaction and a big smart screen for testing innovations. It also has trained experts on innovation and entrepreneurship. The hub also hosts a Virtual Knowledge Gateway which provides an opportunity to create and share challenges on research topics of interest with possibility of getting solutions.

The hub which started its work late last year has already identified students from various Faculties of the University. Those ideas are currently being accessed for potential nurturing and incubation. During the launch, the students were given an opportunity to showcase their innovations with David Cheboryot, the East Africa Manager for E4Impact indicating that their organisation would work with the University to accelerate post-revenue ideas from the Hub. E4Impact is an initiative that supports the start-up and growth of new businesses in Africa.

The University’s vision is to grow the Hub into regional innovation hub that can generate solutions for Africa’s social economic benefit, a hub capable of providing a model for other countries around the world. To achieve this, CUEA has a sought the collaboration of partners to bring her dreams into fruition. They include; IBM, Kent, The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), The Centre for Research in Religious Life and Apostolate (CERRA-AFRICA) and the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK). The University welcomes other partners with similar vision.

The CUEA Innovation Hub is housed in the University’s award winning Library and Learning Resource Centre that is also recognised as one of the greenest buildings in Africa.