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Polytechnic holds Entrepreneurship and Innovation Workshop

News   Mercy Garnet   November 8, 2018
PIC: Dr Douglas Sanyahumbi during the presentation
Polytechnic holds the first session of the Technology Commercialization: from lab to market workshop on November 2, 2018. The workshop was held at the Design Studio, UNIMA Polytechnic and was led by Innovation Management Consultant, Dr. Douglas Sanyahumbi and the Design Studio Director, Ms Brittany Allen.

Sanyahumbi tackled a number of topics in his presentations. He began by defining innovation and entrepreneurship. Technology Innovation was simply defined as “an invention put to use” or in the equation format “technology innovation =invention + commercialization”

According to Sanyahumbi, academia plays  a key role in innovation and wherever possible, universities should explore the transfer of useful research outputs to  socio-economic market places. “Universities need to be able to transfer relevant research outputs to the outside world as a return on investment on the public funding received from society at large ”Sanyahumbi emphasized.

Innovation involves coming up with an idea, developing that idea and reducing it to use, protecting the intellectual property as appropriate, usually through patents for an invention. The Design Studio helps with developing prototypes which can be market-tested and then commercialized as appropriate. “Universities do not always get to develop and commercialize the final product” Sanyahumbi highlighted, but sometimes they license their IP for further development and commercialization by partners. Sanyahumbi also discussed the concepts of “publish or perish” and “innovate or perish” where he pointed out that researchers should by all means publish, but should consider protecting IP first wherever appropriate.

An invention, in the form of a product, a service or a process, needs to be desirable to users, and it has to be technically and commercially viable in the market place. Sanyahumbi highlighted the need for human, social, financial, market, culture, knowledge , and physical capital for a successful innovation ecosystem.

Sanyahumbi said entrepreneurs create value by identifying unmet needs or opportunities for change, and then identifying relevant solutions and organizing, managing and assuming the risks of starting a business around this. Entrepreneurs tend to see problems as opportunities.

Technology innovation is not only helpful in increasing the local and international profile of the research being done, the researchers/ inventors and institution but it is also helpful in that it contributes to social and economic development.  

A third year student studying Geological Engineering, Omega Chirwa said she attended the workshop because she had so many ideas but just never knew where to start, so she wanted to learn more about innovation and entrepreneurship.

“I have learnt more about innovation and entrepreneurship, the actual processes that involved, I have realized that it is not about just coming up with an idea and bringing it out there but it involves so many things including having an entrepreneurial mindset to come up with something unique,” said Chirwa.

Having secured funding support from the Lemmelson Foundation, Rice University, based in Houston, Texas, partnered with the University of Malawi Polytechnic (UNIMA-Poly) and successfully developed and implemented a new model for invention education which spanned all the engineering programs at UNIMA-Poly.

The long term goal of the partnership is to develop and deliver sustainable education programs that promote and support local technology innovation.

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