By Frederick Philander
The Polytechnic of Namibia’s plans to establish Namibia’s first innovation centre gained further impetus last week with the launch of a three-day stakeholders’ workshop involving foreign and local experts, and business leaders from industry and the small business sector.
As guest speaker Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Dr Tjama Tjivikua, said that Government and other stakeholders had long recognised the key role small and medium enterprises (SMEs) could play in supporting national development objectives such as job creation, economic growth and diversification. He added that most SMEs have yet to fulfil their potential.
“Inadequate business know-how, frequent inaccessibility and unavailability of support systems, and a critical lack of entrepreneurial and innovative knowledge, are major challenges facing SMEs in Namibia.
“Innovation is a proven stimulant for the formation of new businesses in a knowledge economy. It also gives fresh impetus to established businesses and has the power to re-energise national economic growth.
“To build and sustain local business innovation capacity, it is essential that we have a knowledge-based environment and a centre with the expertise, the resources and the dedication to promote business innovation and nurture entrepreneurial talent, amongst small and fledgling businesses,” Dr Tjivikua added.
Tjivikua further expressed his profound gratitude to those willing to assist in establishing such a centre thereby promoting an environment conducive to investment and expertise, as would be facilitated by the Namibian Business Innovation Centre (NBIC).
The NBIC will combine expertise and resources from leading technology providers, local business and Government and international partners. It will also provide advanced knowledge and technologies to the Namibian industry at large to enhance its innovative capabilities and strengthen its competitive advantage in the region and globally.
A feasibility study undertaken in 2006 by the Polytechnic in collaboration with Technopolis Finland was funded by the Embassy of Finland in Windhoek.
The study confirmed the need for a business innovation centre in Namibia.
Given its commitment to fostering innovation and sustainable development, the Polytechnic firmly took the lead in conceptualising and driving the idea of establishing the Inno-vation Centre.
The workshop held from 2-4 April was attended by many stakeholders and featured presenters from GTZ, the University of Applied Sciences in Brandenburg, Germany, and VDI/VDE Innovation Technic GmbH, also from Germany. Participants included Polytechnic staff and members of the business community.
Said Eeva Hiltunen, Programme Officer at the Embassy of Finland: “We also want our support to be catalytic in the sense that it creates and initiates new processes, new ideas and new practices for the benefit of Namibians, so that it creates positive change, that is – development. Therefore, our support to the creation of the Namibia Business Innovation Centre fits our purposes very well … I’m very glad to see that such a big group of stakeholders and partners are present here today from the wide range of sectors of society. In innovation, networking is the key to success, because innovations very rarely can be made alone, as we know. On the contrary, innovations are often born when the best skills of surprising partners are combined.”
In her view the new development policy programme of the government of Finland acknowledges that economic growth is essential for reducing poverty and for achieving the global millenium development goals.
“However, the policy emphasizes that development must be socially, economically and especially eco-locially viable, taking into account the global challenges, like the climate change.
“This entails that the efforts of developing countries to create knowledge based economies are to be encouraged and the use and development of new sound technologies supported. In this sense, support to the innovation system development in.
Africa is very well in line with our new policy,” the programme officer said.
In innovation, networking is the key to success, because innovations very rarely can be made alone, as we know. On the contrary, innovations are often born when the best skills of surprising partners are combined.
“I was just reading a Finnish magazine and saw an add which told me what is the connection between art and design, poetry and doors. A Finnish manufacturer of doors invited a very well known designer and a seasoned Finnish poet to think about new generation doors for private homes. They created a door which has a poem beautifully carved on it. A poem which tells about the meaning of ‘home’.
“I guess also new kinds of technology were created and applied to be able to produce doors with poems written on them. Now these doors meant for private houses are sold for a very good price for selected markets. The company is happy since the poem adds a lot of value to their product. A great innovation, I think,” she told the audience.
Namibia has a lot of potential for innovation and business, and therefore also for sustainable economic growth.
“This has also been acknowledged by the government of Namibia in the Vision2030 document. We, the Finns, are very happy and privileged to be able to take part in the development of a Namibian knowledge-based economy and its innovation system. Therefore, I also want to wish Namibia Business Innovation Centre and its partners, best of luck in the exciting business of innovation,” she concluded.