Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) has this week Tuesday officially started rolling out the Innovation Fund offerings to boost innovation. The Fund was announced by the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele last month after government set aside P12 million for it. When launching the Fund this week at BIH iconic building in Block 8, Gaborone, Chairman of Botswana Innovation Fund (BIF), Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi said the purpose of the fund is to promote innovation in the country which will see Botswana having its own Silicon Valley. He said this will promote the quality of life for the people of Botswana and beyond the borders, explaining that this is not about winning tenders but providing solutions to the problems. Companies willing to benefit from the Fund will have to focus on selected areas which are mining technologies, clean technologies, bio-technologies, Information Communications Technologies (ICT) and indigenous knowledge systems. Innovation Fund Coordinator, Sithembile Dingake, said beneficiaries will be members of the BIH and that the first call has been made on the 15th of March this year through the BIH portal. Dingake explained that applicants will have to go through stages before they can be selected. The first stage would be evaluation done by a team of experts followed by a workshop for shortlisted candidates, followed by contracting for sub-recipients. The Fund Coordinator said payments will be done on a milestone approach to ensure that the money is used for intended purposes.
One of the members of the BIF Committee, and also Vice-Chancellor for University of Botswana, Professor David Norris commended government for coming up with the Fund, saying it will go a long way in providing solutions for problems faced. One of the members of BIH, Letsogile Kennedy – the founder and CEO of Ecohub Botswana – said funding has been an impediment to many innovators. He said their products are mostly unique and therefore need their own platforms for showcasing so as to stand out. He said the Fund comes at a time when the world is looking at the African continent, adding that this is an opportunity for local innovators to show what they are capable of. He said they would bring the needed competition as that would in turn increase innovation and put Botswana on the map. Last month when announcing the Fund, Dr Madigele said government is spearheading the drive to use innovation as a trajectory for economic growth. He said the main risk of the Fund is its sustainability as it does not have a long-term refinancing framework.
About the Innovation Fund
Botswana Innovation Hub leads and coordinates the establishment of a functional and integrated national innovation ecosystem. Key to this development is the creation of a National Innovation Fund that promotes innovation through technology, products and business development in the private sector by providing cash grants to companies and organisations registered with Botswana Innovation Hub. The fund also serves to provide cash grants to universities and research organisations within and outside the Botswana Innovation Hub, to which companies and organisations registered with the Botswana Innovation Hub may subcontract part of the research and development work. In addition to the foregoing, the Innovation Fund serves to encourage companies and organisation registered with Botswana Innovation Hub to transfer skills to citizen employees by providing cash grants to be utilised for institutional training and on the job training programmes. A governance structure for the Innovation Fund has been established through a statutory instrument of 2017. The statutory instrument allows the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education (MoTE) to delegate the administration and implementation of the fund to Botswana Innovation Hub. To this end, Botswana Innovation Hub established a fund administration office that has assumed the Secretariat role for the fund. Also in the governance structure of the Innovation Fund is the appointment of Botswana Innovation Fund (BIF) Committee which has oversight of the implementation of the fund. The Committee consists of independent members of the public from private sector and the business community. Among the roles and responsibilities of the BIF Committee is the approval of the fund guidelines, procedures for operation of the fund, approval of grant application processes and subsequent applications, appointment of special experts and auditors and receiving and approving of reports from audits, programme evaluation reports and reports on grant applications and approvals.