Kenyan public universities seek to tap innovations to solve financial crisis


Kenya’ public universities are now seriously setting the stage to tap innovations and research as part of their strategy to come out of their financial crisis.

The universities’ vice chancellors (VCs) said time is ripe for universities to commercialise their innovations through partnerships with the corporates and government. The leaders said universities should now revert to their core function of coming up with innovations and conducting extensive research in various fields of the economy.

The institutions are also embarking on a plan to create endowment funds through help from wealthy benefactors and private institutions. The VCs are banking on this pot of funds to facilitate research and innovations.

The public universities are currently struggling to raise finances due to a sharp decline in State allocations and a significant fall in the number of self-sponsored students. This has left a gaping hole of Sh68 billion, necessitating radical reforms such as closure of campuses and scrapping of courses. Development of key projects has also stalled for lack of funds.

Commercialisation of research and innovation is long overdue for Kenyan universities and this is the reason behind the financial challenges they are growing through. In the West, universities have strong ties with private companies and government, with their innovations generating vast revenues for the institutions. Many top companies have entered Research and Development (R&D) deals with universities aimed at producing innovative products that give the firms an edge over rivals in a competitive world.

One of the recent notable partnerships is between the Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc— a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology. The duo produced the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

If Kenyan universities can successfully follow this route, they will be able to address most of the financial woes that have paralysed their operations.


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