The Kenya national innovation agency (KeNIA)

Leaders in Innovation Fellowship (LIF) beneficiary, The Hope Tech Plus Limited showcases its signature product, the Sixth Sense. The startup which currently has a user base of about 1,600, targets the visually impaired with their hand-held mobility assistive device dubbed The Sixth Sense – a small, handheld walking companion to the visually impaired which imitates echolocation and sonar techniques by using ultrasound sensors to detect objects. The device vibrates in different ways to warn the user when they’re close to an object, with the frequency of vibrations increasing as the user gets closer to an object. This unique mobility aid is a brainchild of Brian Mwenda, an assistive tech enthusiast and Electrical and Electronic Engineer whose passion for innovation was triggered by his close association with the physically challenged.

The Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) is a State Corporation established under the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Act, No. 28 of 2013 under the Ministry of Education. The core mandate of the Agency is to develop and manage the National Innovation System.

The Agency is therefore responsible for co-ordination, promotion and regulation of the National Innovation Ecosystem.

Working with partners, KeNIA strengthens interrelationships between actors in order to promote innovation and enterprise development out of research and ideas. From supporting the identification, recording and protection of innovative ideas to coordinating the establishment and implementation of appropriate policies, standards, processes, infrastructure, and partnerships to nurture the innovative ideas.

The agency also works with partners to ensure appropriate prioritisation, relevant capacity development, innovation recognition and publication of the same.

One of its initiatives is the Kenya Innovation Bridge that helps discover innovations in Kenya. The platform is a marketplace that enables innovators, inventors, researchers and start-ups to introduce their solutions to partners, funders, customers and users. The goal is to get as many innovations scale by attracting appropriate funding and partnerships.

Another initiative is the National Innovation Award that stimulates and encourages innovation in national priority areas. The Award plays a critical role in strengthening the national innovative capacity through motivation, recognition, and support of innovators.
KeNIA is building pool of innovation champions across government, private sector, institutions of higher learning, research centres and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVETs).

The champions become the agents of sustaining innovation momentum in local institutions through capacity building of colleagues, organising events, scouting innovations, building partnerships, mentoring innovators and start-ups among others.

Another KeNIA initiative is the Innovation Academy supported by several partners working to building innovative capacities of interested individuals and support integration of innovative practices into institutions. Through the academy, KeNIA is building an integrated community of passionate individuals interested in developing innovative and actionable solutions to existing challenges that would transform their organisations.

The goal is to produce young Kenyans willing and ready to deliver new disruptive policies, products, services and processes.

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