COVID-19: The Research office must not be put on the back burner
Industry and academia urged to collaborate in bridging unemployment gap in Kenya
Tech-company Research Beeline will be rolling out a number of initiatives aimed at enabling African scholars to access research funding opportunities so as to advance their careers.
The platform has an inbuilt client management system for each user to manage their deadlines, an inbuilt bot or web crawler that helps to track all changes happening in the research funding ecosystem, among other features.
Currently they have on boarded 12 universities to the platform, whom they charge between Sh200, 000- Sh600, 000 a year depending on usage. They also do two-day workshop trainings on grant writings for their subscribers and to non-subscribers at a fee.
In months to come, the tech-firm plans to develop a software that will enable private companies to engage with universities and notify them of products or skill-sets they need. The universities will then be able to train scholars in a way that will be profitable to them.
“We see a lot of large organisations source for their products abroad. A good example is our local banks, who spend millions to source for cybersecurity products from China or Silicon Valley. But how many universities, whose students can develop better anti-fraud products, have they engaged. How many anti-fraud competitions are they running,” said Eric Kibuthu, a co-founder of Research Beeline.
Kibuthu says that industry should also work closely with academia to train students while at the university so that they do not end up incurring added costs, in both time and money, to train them after they leave school to match the skills that they are looking for.
“Industry receives a lot of people who are not qualified to serve it, so why not train students while they are still in school, so that all they have to do is to handpick the best,” he said.
His words were echoed by Research Beeline co-founder James Waithaka, who said to address the employment challenges, both employers, and the universities have a role to play in ensuring scholars and researchers gain access to the available opportunities.
“It is all about positioning. The academia needs to position itself in such a way that it is visible to the industry, and convince the industry that if you give us this task, we will be able to handle it. At the same time the industry is also supposed to give confidence to the academia that if you deliver on what we need, then we will give you the support you need,” Waithaka said.
Meanwhile, Research Beeline CEO and co-founder Joseph Njogu says universities need to work on branding themselves in such a way that they can be able to attract support from industry. This support could come in the form of funding for projects, funding to attend seminars and workshops, or even funding to be able to use platforms such as the Research Beeline software that will enable them to access tailored funding from abroad.
“We plan to hold webinars that will bring together both industry and academia stakeholders to discuss what needs to be done to address the unemployment/lack of funding gap for researchers. In the global North, the biggest funding comes from private entities unlike in Africa, where the corporates would rather fund foundations because there is no infrastructure or technology to fund research,” he said.
This articled appeared in the Nation digital on 8th November 2022: