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BIH Kickstarts Innovation Fund

PAULINE DIKUELO
Dr Alfred Madigele
Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) has finally launched the Innovation Fund, which has been in the pipeline for the past seven years.

Government has invested P12 million in the Fund that would in the current financial year benefit private companies, and organisations registered and operating in Botswana who seek to develop commercially viable innovative products or processes with   significant impact in the society.

Grants shall be accessed through competitive calls advertised to the public to allow submission of proposals. Turnaround times for submissions would vary but ideally should be between four to six weeks, from submission of full application to receiving feedback.

Speaking during the launch, the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele said funding of innovation has become pre-requisite to achieving the solutions and products that are beneficial to the society.

“Government is spearheading the drive to use innovation as a trajectory for economic growth. To this end, the establishment of the fund would assist to close a gap in early stage financing for key projects of national importance,” he said.

According to the minister, the government has put in place a robust governance framework to allow evaluation and awards from the Fund. The Fund’s grant scheme will follow an annual plan approved for implementations each year with agreed set targets.

The criteria for funding shall

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take into consideration several factors including intellectual property, sustainability, and social impact amongst others. The minister said the first call would be out soon urging innovation companies to take advantage.

“I am optimistic that the fund shall be implemented to achieve its intentions. The anticipated outcomes of the fund are to have projects that have successfully been implemented with potential to scale up locally and regionally,” he said.

Further he called for ways of identifying opportunities that can sustain the Fund including seeking partnerships with other funding organisations locally and internationally.  “Key risk is the fund’s sustainability as it does not have a guaranteed long-term refinancing framework,” he said.

Early last year, Sthembile Dingake was appointed the Fund’s coordinator by BIH, seven years after it was set up. This week a committee was also set up to ensure the smooth operation of the Fund.  Its members include Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi, Dr George Matlho, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, Professor David Norris as well as Oteng Sebonego.

As part of BIH’s strategy, they collaborated with NEPAD/SANBio last year, in which they will be providing funding up to the value of P2 million for commercialisation of innovations addressing local challenges.



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