Innovative clusters closing the gap between University and Society in East Africa

Innovative clusters closing the gap between University and Society in East Africa.
A living proof of Mode 2 excellence?

Birgitta Rydhagen, project manager, Lena Trojer, funded by Sida.

Universities in East Africa collaborate in innovative cluster initiatives in diverse locations in knowledge production in the context of application. This means that scientific researchers participate in socio-economic development and poverty reduction by developing knowledge in close collaboration with actors in local communities, with business and Government. The umbrella organization PACF (Pan African Competitiveness Forum) provides a supportive structure and facilitates collaboration between cluster groups in different African countries.
The study focuses on two cases where cluster initiatives develop innovative solutions to address changing situations – climate change, increasing global market competition, deteriorating natural resources and an increasing need for diversified income generation among women and men. One case is the Tanzanian Zanzibar cluster for seaweed production. The other case is salt production cluster in lake Katwe, Uganda. Both clusters aim towards increasing product quality and product diversity to increase the income, and at the same time improve social conditions for workers and their families. Many of the participants are women.

The main aim is to study how innovative clusters can foster timely implementation of knowledge products with socioeconomic relevance. Focus is on the research component, since socioeconomic development is part of the strategic policies of universities in Uganda and Tanzania. The project includes focus group discussions and participatory exercises with PACF key persons and cluster members. Research results will be disseminated continuously and through a final report to research participants in the two clusters and to PACF partners. Together with one research partner from Tanzania and Uganda respectively, we will also participate in conferences arranged by Sida and UNESCO.

One of the results of the project is the book  The Role of Universities in Inclusive Innovation – cluster development in East Africa, edited by Birgitta Rydhagen and Lena Trojer, published by Nelson Mandela African Institution for Science and technology, download full text pdf.