His Majesty King Letsie III and Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho officially launched the NUL Innovation Hub during NUL Week, on the 14th November, 2018 at Roma. The Innovation Hub is the NUL’s vision for business, research and innovation that will contribute towards income generation and job creation.
The Innovation Hub was sponsored by Metropolitan Lesotho to the tune of M1,000,000.00 to secure space and buy equipment. The Innovation Hub is going to incubate a range of business products that can add value to our ordinary daily lives as a nation. The Innovation Hub is intended to help all these projects developed from research by NUL staff and students to become fully-fledged businesses that can sustain themselves in the market.
In the beginning, 10 business projects will be incubated till they are ready to be turned into factories through partnership with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC).
Current projects in the Incubation Hub are:
• Pius IV Incubator (incubates and hatches up to 600 eggs at a go)
• Smart Home Automation System
• Mohalalitoe Soap (the machine produces up to 600 soaps / day 3)
• Lefika Artificial Cladding stones and Engineered AfriQuartz stones
• Sign Language Interpreter App (a computer application that translates sign language to ordinary language and vice versa)
• Chickens of Ha Maama
• Bohlale Biscuits (Sorghum biscuits and breakfast muesli)
• Sebabatso Yoghurt (as well as fresh and sour milk)
• 21st Century Furniture (made from waste paper-based furniture and vases)
• Bohlokoa Sorghum Choice
The day of the launch started with the unveiling of plaques, the cutting of ribbons and a tour which was led by the King and Chancellor around the Innovation Hub building and two other buildings, namely: the Sebabatso Yoghurt Factory (which produces Sebabatso yoghurt, fresh and sour milk) and the Bohlale Bakery (which produces baked sorghum products including sorghum biscuits and muesli). There was also demonstration on artificial insemination for cows and sheep.
In his keynote address, His Majesty and Chancellor indicated that the Innovation Hub is a truly welcomed development intended to inculcate an entrepreneurial culture among NUL staff and students.
“The Innovation Hub is a highly ambitious project which provides a platform for incubation of business models from the very nascent stages of conception up to the stage of mass-production. If these projects are well developed, they have the potential to touch the lives of ordinary Basotho and contribute in a meaningful way to the economy of Lesotho and reduce the prevalent over-dependence on other countries”, said the King.
He further mentioned that during NULISTICE-2018, the Queen and himself had an opportunity to visit the expo at Pioneer Mall and they were extremely delighted to meet so many young innovators and future entrepreneurs who showcased their talent for innovation.
“This Innovation Hub should, hopefully, provide support to such young people both in terms of expertise and finances”, the King and Chancellor advised.
NUL Vice Chancellor Prof. Nqosa Mahao stated that in the months ahead, in a joint endeavor with LNDC, NUL has already identified a plot of land closer to the Liphiring river – courtesy of chief of the place – where an Industrial Park is going to be built.
“For starters, the Industrial Park will host 10 factories producing on industrial scale products that are now being incubated in the Innovation Hub. Our vision is that the Hub will grow and take out more businesses to the Industrial Park”, Prof. Mahao said.
“Some of the challenges are low output in the area of Mathematics and Science that we are not able to meet our quotas for admission and poor aging and limited laboratory infrastructure”, Prof Mahao stipulated.
“We are very grateful that His Majesty’s government has agreed to sponsor the plans for the building of the School of Engineering at NUL. Our University is working on a plan to set up a mathematics and actuarial center to provide training in mathematics and science to upgrade the competencies and responding to other sectors of the economy, he emphasized.
He highlighted that at present, NUL is facing the future with optimal confidence and this will pull the country into a different trajectory of development.
On behalf of the NUL Research and Innovation Committee, Dr Thimothy Thamae indicated that they started all these products in the laboratories and more laboratories are needed for testing.
“A concept for NUL product development and testing has been made and drawn up. Not only to develop but also testing for quality according to standards”, Dr Thamae, highlighted.
He further noted that testing labs are needed not just for NUL products but for the whole nation.
“In this process of incubation, the market is going to be tested thoroughly to see and give us feedback on the performance of the projects”, he added.
The Minister of Education and Training, Hon. Prof. Ntoi Rapapa commended the excellent Research and Innovation work being done by lecturers and students at the NUL on a daily basis.
“Today’s event is a great opportunity to showcase the great work of business, research and innovation going on at NUL and that needs to be commercialized for job creation and economic development. It is high time that the private sector partners with NUL to improve the great work to reach industrial scales”, Minister Rapapa stated.
The two-day event (NUL WEEK and launch of Innovation Hub) officially was closed officially by the Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Hon. Chief Thesele Maseribane.
“November 14th 2018, which was yesterday, is now etched permanently in our memories as one of the most significant day in history of Lesotho because the NUL Innovation Hub was launched on this day”, said the Minister.
He further complimented all those involved in the successful launch of Innovation Hub and made Basotho aware that the government is watching with pride and honour.
“We are very keen to collaborate and support the University in all the efforts it intends to undertake towards the development of the country, especially in the areas of Science and Technology”, Chief Maseribane indicated.
In an effort to position itself as a premium University in Lesotho, NUL took a deliberate decision to rate developing industries and private sector through entrepreneurship as one of the main goals in its 2015- 2020 Strategic Plan. The decision was taken in an environment of high graduate unemployment that the Head of State and the Chancellor of the University, His Majesty King Letsie III, termed a national crisis. It is in this context that NUL has established the NUL Innovation Hub which is meant to provide an impetus for job creation in Lesotho by incubating businesses! The opening of the NUL Innovation Hub takes place at a time when innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives are taking root at the university.