Entrepreneurship & universities

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UNIVERSITIES are increasingly tasked with fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, encouraged to generate revenues from research produced on campus and
contribute to (local) economic growth. This view of the entrepreneurial university reflects two recent trends. First, universities are increasingly patenting
research with commercial potential and subsequently seeking to increase their licensing revenues.

At the same time, universities are creating innovation hub facilities to assist faculty members, university graduates, community members and other parties to
start new firms that not only contribute to local economic growth, but also generate income for the university, which often holds equity positions in the
incubator’s tenant firms.

The creation of entrepreneurial universities is anchored on the government of Zimbabwe’s Education 5.0 policy thrust. Education 5.0 is premised on the five
pillars of “Research, Community Service, Teaching, Innovation and Industrialisation”. Universities have long been central to the innovative process through
generating, codifying, and communicating basic knowledge. Universities have also played an increasingly important role in developing and using applied
knowledge, particularly in the scientific and technical fields.

Technological advancement and innovation are key to improving productivity and competitiveness of locally manufactured products. The strategy is to
strengthen science, technology transfer and innovation systems through collaboration between Government, development partners, firms, learning and research
institutions. To ensure production of competitive goods and services, education 5.0 offers incentives to stimulate innovation, including Research and
Development (R&D).

The envisioned establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Bulawayo presents an opportunity for Industry-Academia collaboration. The city has spacious
industrial sites and there is still virgin land, which is strategically positioned within the proximity of industries. The envisaged development of
industrial parks allied with innovation hubs and SEZ presents various opportunities for researchers to come up with innovations that will lead to the
creation of new products and services. The industrial parks will provide hubs for industries to come together, network, create new linkages and develop
multi-sectoral synergies.

The innovation hubs will incorporate incubation centers for innovations and inventions that will give rise to new products and ideas that can be applied
within the industrial parks and beyond. The issue of value addition is also very crucial in the quest for economic and industrial development.

Universities serve as “anchors” in the emergence of technology clusters (Stanford University, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, being the best-known
example). Universities train scientists and engineers, partner with established and emerging technology firms, and develop their own in-house technologies.
The desire to increase universities’ applied research outputs and give them a stronger role in the industrialisation process has led the government of
Zimbabwe to come up with the education 5.0 Policy initiative to stimulate local industrial development as it adds a “fifth mission” of industrialisation
(along with research, teaching, community service and innovation to the mandate of universities.

The presence of the National University of Science Technology (Nust) Innovation Hub creates value by encouraging knowledge flows between academic
researchers, students, and industry as well as business, increasing the likelihood of university personnel developing valuable, patentable innovations.
Moreover, the presence of an innovation hub reduces the marginal cost for university personnel to establish their own ventures and become innovation hub
tenants, increasing the incentives to generate high-quality innovations.

For all these reasons, the presence of an innovation hub should lead to higher quality, patentable innovations emanating from research. University innovation
hubs are effective mechanisms for translating academic research into commercially useful innovations and value-adding start-up companies. The Zimbabwean
government is encouraging public research organizations to use their inventories of IP rights to create spinouts. Successful spinouts create new jobs,
contribute to economic development, and potentially grow into large corporations. Innovation hubs are key players in this effort, but they should balance the
interests and mission of the universities with the objectives of the spinout and the needs of society.

The strategy of establishing innovation hubs also includes the initiative of undertaking inward technology transfer into the university, the activation of
Nust’s multi-disciplinary human capital strengths to drive innovation and industrialisation. Significant academic outputs, new intellectual properties and
stimulation of new industries will be achieved.

The goal of commercializing university technologies is to generate economic growth, the creation of new companies, generation of jobs and attracting
additional investment. Because universities and public sector research institutes are often the giants of Research and Development (R&D) within a developing
economy, they need to be relied upon as sources for human capital and investment in entrepreneurship, since there may be no other sources. A lot of
technologies have been developed elsewhere and there is need for massive technology transfer initiatives to ensure that these technologies are deployed in
the provinces and Zimbabwe at large. –chroncile.co.zw

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