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projetos

Republic OF Uganda

BUILDING ON MSI ACHIEVEMENTS TO HELP UGANDA GROW

 

This note is supported by Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and the International Technical Committee for the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI TC). The note is to request government and the World Bank to provide additional financing for continuation of the MSI project beyond the current phase which ends December 2012. The request is for US$ 15 million to be provided by the World Bank so that gains from the MSI are not lost and the momentum created in the science community in the last six years of the project is maintained. This additional financing is to continue supporting research and innovation on a competitive basis for at least two rounds, as government works out modalities for continuing such support on an annual basis over a longer term.

1.0 Uganda Millennium Science Initiative (MSI)

The Uganda MSI project supported Ugandan universities and research institutes to produce more and better qualified science and engineering graduates, and higher quality and more relevant research. A related goal is that firms utilize these outputs to improve productivity and enhance science and technology led growth.

The grants component of the MSI supported, first (Window A) 23 senior or emerging research groups to carry out high-quality research connected to graduate training. Second (Window B), it supported 10 new undergraduate science and engineering programs or rehabilitation and upgrading of existing ones. Third (Window C), it supported six Technology Platforms, through which firms and researchers collaborate in solving problems of direct interest to industry, as well as Internships, which give students hands-on experience in companies and companies a closer link to curricula of universities and technical institutes. In addition, an outreach program, institutional strengthening for UNCST and UIRI, and monitoring and evaluation and policy studies were supported.

2.0 Achievements

The Uganda MSI has had the following achievements:

  1. Demonstrated the usefulness of a mechanism of competitive funding of science projects, and of the capability of UNCST to operate this mechanism in a professional way at international standards;
  2. (Window A) A greatly oversubscribed facility, with international Technical Committee judging proposals to be of high quality. Excellent science has been produced and while science projects often cannot be expected to result in commercialisable/usable products or results in the short term, some remarkable results have been achieved which not only will be of great benefit to Uganda’s development but reach far beyond. For example,
  • Rheumatic heart disease project has established a world standard registry for rheumatic fever and benchmarks for managing patients with the disease.
  • Malaria vaccine project has developed a malaria vaccine candidate which has progressed into clinical trials.
  • Cassava project has developed cassava variants with resistance to cassava brown streak disease through RNA silencing techniques.
  • Nile perch project has produced baseline for aquaculture industry globally.
  • Assessment of climate variability, environmental degradation and lake level dynamics of Lake Victoria.

Besides, 31 PhD students and 57 MSc students have been trained through the various research projects.

  1. (Window B) A first ever opportunity for all universities, including Makerere University, to access in a competitive and transparent way, funds for improving their infrastructure for increasing the number of science students and improving the quality of teaching. It has resulted in innovative new programmes and long overdue refurbishments to existing facilities in critical areas for Uganda’s development. Over one thousand science students have already been enrolled in these programmes. Some examples of these programmes are:
  • Surveying land and construction economics at Makerere University
  • Biosystems Engineering at Gulu University
  • Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical sciences at Mbarara University of Science and Technology
  • Science teacher programmes at  Kabale University and Kyambogo University
  • Biotechnology at Makerere University
  • Textile Engineering at Busitema University.
  1. (Window C) First ever funding of university and industry cooperation. There was much enthusiasm among private sector actors demonstrated when UIRI organised seminars to publicise Technology Platforms. Some important results are:
  • molasses urea blocks for boosting milk production; commercial production and marketing of the milk booster has been started up. Hundreds of farmers are already benefiting from increased milk production, especially during dry spells;
  • catfish propagation has been promoted. This has provided a basis for private firms and individuals to increase their aquaculture outputs.

So far fewer students internships have been set up, but targeting students, and recognition by companies of key success factors (structural link between company and university; simultaneous improvements of curriculum, students’ hands-on experience, and company’s mentoring capabilities) are expected to generate more applications for this urgently needed component.

  1. MSI key driver to assist UIRI (200 staff in 2011 versus 40 in 2006) on its way to become a national and regional Centre of Excellence for the promotion of economic development by supporting companies and local communities with technologies, product development, resource data on industry in Uganda, prototyping, small-scale production, incubation; and universities and science teachers with hands-on training;
  • Mechanical engineering department fully operational; basic CAD/CAM services are offered;
  • Industry Resource Centre (IRC) operational, including data on industry in Uganda;
  • Technology Development Centre works on considerable number of value addition projects (e.g. food-grade enzymes, electronics, renewable energy systems products);
  • Vaccine plant, Microbiology Lab (including modern biotechnology facilities) and Chemistry lab operational;
  • Many partnerships with Ugandan universities and international bodies, e.g. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of South Africa;
  • Business Development Centre and pilot plants assist some 30 incubatees (10 in-house);
  • Considerable range of equipment and machinery enables UIRI to provide practically-oriented training to technicians and their instructors in technical institutes (national BTVET strategy). They are vital next to MSc and PhD graduates and entrepreneurial skills.
  1. Greatly enhanced availability of policy-relevant data on the science, technology and innovation (STI) system, and strongly improved capability of UNCST to (partly jointly with National Council for Higher Education) provide these (regular publications on STI system and indicators) will foster evidence-based policy making;
  2. Successful annual National Science and Technology Week in September exposes students in secondary schools, public at large throughout Uganda to the importance of STI for economic growth and improved livelihoods.
  3. Research projects, new and upgraded undergraduate science and engineering programmes have been funded throughout the country, making MSI a genuine national programme.

 

3.0 Critical issues

Countries that invest in human resources, science, technology and innovation demonstrably do better in generating prosperity and welfare. Building up Uganda’s own capabilities is essential for tapping into the pool of knowledge and technologies which is the consequence of worldwide investments. This requires long-term policies to sustain investments. The strategy to achieve this is to continue MSI for another four or five years, while at the same time, build up a permanent funding mechanism to support competitive projects, creating new and upgrading existing science and engineering programmes, and innovation in line with the national science, technology and innovation plan and the national development plan 2010-2015. In more detail:

 

  1. Continue MSI to enable two more rounds of competitive funding for science projects and university/research institute-industry collaboration, as well as new and upgraded undergraduate programmes in science and technology;
  2. Use this continuation also to give UIRI a final push to complete its new foundation for being a national and regional Centre of Excellence;
  3. Continue collection of (survey) data to inform STI policies; the National Science Week and other outreach activities; and an intensified policy dialogue between UNCST and the other public and private STI stakeholders in areas such as health, agriculture, energy, transportation, construction, environment, etc. This requires continuation beyond 2012 of the operational costs included in MSI for UNCST, as well as some additional staff;
  4. Turn gradually the competitive MSI funding into a long term science, technology and innovation program, managed by UNCST. Virtually all countries have such a mechanism to build excellence and relevance, on top of core funding of universities to maintain infrastructure for research;
  5. Modify gradually investments in new or upgraded undergraduate programmes into such core funding;
  6. Think about a new mechanism (to be operated by UIRI in conjunction with UNCST) to foster, where applicable, commmercialisation/usage of research results obtained with MSI or the new long term competitive grants mechanism, or any research funded publicly.

 

4.0 Steps to undertake

  1. The UNCST seeks additional financing to continue MSI beyond the current phase which ends December 2012. The World Bank has expressed its willingness to invest another US$15 million and this money should be used as bridging financing to ensure continuity of MSI. The Government of Uganda should prolong its partnership with the World Bank on terms to be quickly agreed, in line with its long-term commitment to science, technology and innovation pronounced at the launch of MSI, and well-articulated in the national development plan.
  2. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development should set up with UNCST a joint Task Force to prepare within one year a proposal for the operational rules and the financial build-up (beginning FY 2014/2015) of a Fund for Science and Technology. The Task Force should report regularly to the President.

26th September 2012, Kampala, Uganda.

 


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