Smart Lab Hosts innovation and entrepreneurship Workshop piloted by Turku University from Finland

On 07, Jan 2021 with:

Smart Lab hosted a design workshop with Turku University at Smart Lab offices in Mikocheni A, Dar es Salaam on March 18th, 2019. This workshop was part of the week-long series of workshops that Turku University hosted in different hubs in Dar es Salaam with an aim to build the capacity of Tanzanian university faculty members, particularly in innovation and entrepreneurship. A total of 24 participants attended the workshop including 3 university faculty members from Turku University, 15 faculty members from different universities in Tanzania, including Ardhi University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, State University of Zanzibar, University of Dar es Salaam and 6 facilitators from Smart Lab.

This initiative was a first step to building a kind of culture in Tanzania where universities collaborate with innovation hubs and nurture entrepreneurs at the university level a move that could lead to enabling the economy grow rapidly due to the outcomes of the partnerships, it’s also an effort to making universities more involved in innovation. taking lessons from different parts of the world i.e. the United States and Europe in this case Stanford university which embraces innovation and entrepreneurship such that many technology companies in Silicon Valley trace their origin from Stanford university ideas or Stanford faculty and students

The workshops took place in a span of 5 days from March 18th to March 22nd. In the first four days, the faculty members spent full days at four different hubs in Dar es Salaam where they were posed with real-world business and technical challenges facing some startups in these hubs and they were challenged to find solutions to these problems and they lastly met at Buni hub to conclude and suggest ways in which universities and the innovation ecosystem could better work together.

The entire trip during the week was as follows, Smart Lab, Mikocheni A – Monday, Ndoto Hub, Msasani – Tuesday, Sahara Ventures, Kinondoni B – Wednesday, Twiga Alpha, Mbezi Beach – Thursday, and finally Buni Hub, Sayansi on Friday.

Faculty members and participants were excited with the experience citing the varying environments and challenges as motivations for the workshops “The project is about capability building for faculty members, educating teachers as one of the big themes and innovation and entrepreneurship which was my role in this project” - Antero Jarvi, Lecturer, University of Turku.

“These are things that I am very passionate about and I have been doing for quite some time and I am about to start teaching a course on entrepreneurship and innovation at a postgraduate level so I am very excited. I’ve learned new methods today of ideation and user design thinking so I think this will be very useful “- Khadija Mkocha, Lecturer, College of ICT, UDSM

“I got a chance to share my ideas and to learn a lot of things about innovation, to create solutions for the problems that are existing in the society has been a pleasure, it’s worth sharing with others” - Theofrida Maginga, Lecturer, Sokoine University.

Some of the challenges that universities face that limit them from being more supportive towards innovation include bureaucracy, student attitude towards entrepreneurship, limited space/resources to implement projects, the lack of understanding of the importance of startups to universities, lack of hands-on teaching and rigid regulations.

 Below are a few takeaways from the 5 days spent at the hubs

  • There is a need for mindset change for both learning institutions and hubs because currently each of these groups is running their own operations without considering what the other is doing
  • Hubs should become a focal point for the research that is conducted at universities because usually, this research has real-world applications that the innovators are working on.
  • Entrepreneurs should be welcomed at universities as showcases for the courses that directly relate to them.
  • Universities should prepare students to be ready for entrepreneurship by the time they leave school to join hubs so that hubs don't have to start training them from scratch. One way to do this is by building hubs at universities. Students who have an entrepreneurial mindset should also be encouraged to work at startups during their practical training so that they may gain entrepreneurial skills early on.

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