The recent NUL expo called NULISTICE 2020 (National University of Lesotho International Science, Technology & Innovation Conference and Expo) has been hailed as the one of the Lesotho’s largest entrepreneurial events with a great success in the promotion of entrepreneurship and job creation.
Running from the 18th to 24th January, 2020, the NULISTICE 2020 generated an amazing amount of interest in the country and beyond Lesotho borders. Under the theme “Entrepreneurship through innovation”, this biennial event came in three phases: a hackathon, an exhibition and a gala dinner.
Speaking at the gala dinner, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Associate Professor Kananelo Mosito (KC), indicated that while most people appreciate and communicate with the NUL through the media outreach platforms, the NULISTICE 2020 is unique in the sense that it provides a means through which members of the society get a tangible feel of the projects emanating from research by NUL staff and students.
“In an effort to position itself as a premium University in Lesotho entrusted with the mandate of developing the human resource base, NUL took a deliberate decision to rate developing 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”, said Prof. Mosito.
The aim of the Expo was to promote innovation and entrepreneurship with the target to inspire job creation and develop industry for Lesotho and its target markets.
A member of the NUL Research and Innovation Committee (NULRIC), Professor Himanshu Narayan from the Department of Physics and Electronics emphasized that the main idea behind this expo was to bring Lesotho products together for the general public to know and to help in the branding, marketing and incubation of the newly discovered ideas.
The NULISTICE 2020 began with a hackathon which was financially supported by UNDP and Vodacom Lesotho. The hackathon took place over the weekend from the 18th -19th January, 2020 at Roma Campus. It was a 24-hour coding marathon (hackathon) where computer gurus and thinkers battled it out, solving the most interesting technological problems. Winners of the hackathon appear at the end of this article.
The second leg of the NULISTICE 2020 as a week-long exhibition at Pioneer Mall whereby more than 100 tangible research and innovation products were exhibited by NUL lecturers, students, alumni, international researchers and interested businesses from outside NUL.
Displayed products included research-based health teas and skin care products made from organic extracts from within Lesotho, cleaning chemicals, food, textiles, engineered stone products, technological machinery and electronic gadgets. Some of these products are already being incubated at the NUL Innovation Hub. The primary aim of the incubation stage is to test the performance of a product, to test its market reception, and, where necessary, to go back to the labs and fix the flaws even as incubation proceeds. With the financial help and industrial know-how from the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) products which have passed the incubation stage will be developed into mass production factories at the proposed NUL-LNDC Industrial Park.
The exhibition was intended to show how NUL shifted its research focus from purely basic to applied, innovative and impactful research addressing the economic challenges. The exhibition is unique in that it provides means through which members of the society get a tangible feel of the projects. The result has been an intensive networking and in some cases, emergence of new companies.
The Gala Diner was the last leg of the NULISTICE which provided a platform where people enjoyed and reflected on the journey of innovation. It was also a time and opportunity for participants to connect and network with different professions from different spheres of careers.
Winners of the hackathon were as follows:
- • Pule Molise, Mohale Molieleng and Tlotliso Mafantiri won the NUL Innovation Hub Smart e-Commerce website competition
- • Masupha Nkhahle, Fusi Fusi, Reabetsoe Ramoshabe and Makhatsiane Matekoane won the Crime Fighting Platform competition
- • Jobo Mokoali, Thuso Sehloho, Kolosane Mapota, Mosito Mosesane and Sabata Marai won the Farmers application
- • Fusi Motoboli, Molibeli Marake and Morongoe Rakobeli won the Student Industry Project Placement System
- • Babu Nkokana and Tokelo Makafane won the Government Document Depository category and;
- • Lipholo Pheko and his partners won the NSDP2 Reporting Platform competition.