The Government of Rwanda, in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and One UN Rwanda, has officially launched the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to fund research and development in innovative market oriented processes and products.
The fund is also aimed at supporting innovators, protecting their knowledge, commercializing their innovation.
The launch was held in Kigali, on 5 April 2012 at Hotel Mille Collines, and was presided over by Dr. Vincent Biruta, Minister of Education (Mineduc). The ceremony was attended by representatives of government, diplomatic corps, international organizations, private sector, higher-learning and research institution,
Dr. Biruta said that the decision to create the Fund came from a strong belief that investing in research, development and innovation is a national imperative”.
“Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund provides the opportunity for Researchers, Entrepreneurs and Business people to work together in order to fully contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of Rwanda”.
In his address, Mr. Antonio Pedro, Director of Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, UNECA emphasized RIEF will support both enterprising individuals and Research and Development centers.
“The RIEF will bring individual’s and organization’s outputs to the market. The fund is intended to fund joint projects between researchers and entrepreneurs in order to produce locally applicable innovative technologies to spur socio-economic transformation of the country” he said.
“Supporting innovators, protecting their knowledge and commercializing their innovations is the essence of the RIEF”, said Ms. Aida Opokou Mensah, Director of ICT, Science & Technology Division, UNECA at the ceremony were she delivered a presentation on the Vision for African Innovation Endowment Fund, a framework she was happy to note, was used by Rwanda to create the RIEF.
The RIEF funding priorities will initially focus on the three priority areas, namely agriculture, manufacturing and ICT. “There is no doubt that innovation will bring about the breakthroughs to support our industries to become more dynamic and support a competitive economy” said Mr. Faustin Mbundu, Chairman of the Private Sector Federation (PSF).
The establishment of the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) was one of the recommendations at a January 2010 national workshop, convened by the Government of Rwanda and supported by the One UN with the theme: Unlocking the Potential of Science, Technology and Innovation to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Rwanda. Following this workshop the One UN formally agreed to support the establishment of the RIEF with the lead UN Agency being UNECA supported by UNESCO and UNDP.
Mineduc subsequently carried out consultations to examine how science and technology can help Rwanda develop. There was an agreement that the promotion of a system of innovation in Rwanda would generate knowledge, encourage basic and applied research and international cooperation in addressing local needs and contributing to solving socio-economic problems to the national context.
Prospective applicants to the fund are encouraged to apply online through the Ministry of Education (www.mineduc.gov.rw). The RIEF will be accessed via a 2-stage application process based clearly set out eligibility criteria.