Redefining tech transfer for developing countries

Mr Phillip Muinjo,new TTO manager from Namibia

Mr Phillip Muinjo, new TTO manager from Namibia

The Technology Transfer Office project, which is one of the SAIS-supported regional projects, is gaining momentum throughout Namibia, Zambia and Botswana.  The project aims to contribute to both national and regional innovation goals, by promoting and strengthening the full economic value chain in the technology transfer (TT) space.

Along the way, the programme has gained insight into the need to redefine the tech transfer process in a developing-country context.

As part of the project’s scoping, a needs assessment was undertaken in each country to ascertain the local requirements for the establishment of the tech transfer office (TTO).   The project team from the Namibian Business Innovation Institute conducted site visits in-country, as well as to Botswana and Zambia.  They visited stakeholders such as the The National Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR), the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), The University of Zambia (UNZA), Copperbelt University (CBU) and the National Technology Business Centre (NTBC).

It was during these site visits that the ‘tech transfer’ process came to be more clearly scrutinised from a developing-world perspective.  It was clear to see that rather than relying in the traditional approach, it was important to adopt project specificity so as to encourage product and business development.  One of the reasons is due to the absence of a formal IP policy – a reality in many developing nations – which can create unforseen gaps in the tech transfer process.  A result is that in Namibia, for example, the recently appointed TTO Manager, Philip Muinjo, has worked with existing partners such as the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) and the University of Namibia (UNAM) to draft and finalise the policy.

In Zambia, a draft IP policy is awaiting approval from the statues committee, which is still ongoing. NTBC has been part of the drafting team and will also be part of the ongoing reviewing process.

These additional steps are not obstacles to the project, however.  Progress continues for the TTO initiative.  Zambia’s TTO is a two-strong team that is being hosted at the School of Business through the Copperbelt University. In Botswana, there’s been the appointment of a new TTO officer, Samuel Gaborone,  who is hosted at the Botswana Innovation Hub.  And to ensure sustainability of the project, the initiative has been entrenched into both the BIH and University of Botswana’s strategy mandate.