The Sensitization Workshop for Universities, TVETS and Research Institutions in the Central Kenya region on Intellectual Property kicked off on a high note on Monday, 30th January 2023. During the opening session, various speakers from the facilitating institutions expounded on the importance of Intellectual Property management in promoting and protecting innovations and inventions.

TVCs not for failures

Starting off the conversation, Mr. Joe Gethi, working in the Department of Education, while representing the Governor, Nyeri County, Mwalimu Mutahi Kahiga, stated that the Constitution of Kenya had devolved vocational training centres, formerly village polytechnics, to county governments. Counties, though, face

various challenges in running these learning institutions including limited financing, lack of equipment, shortage of trainers and poor infrastructure. Mr. Gethi, who opened the Workshop, said the biggest challenge, however, was society’s attitude towards these vocational training centres.

‘Majority of Kenyans believe that vocational training centres are for students who have failed in their examinations. This is a misconception that denies the country professionals with technical skills needed by contractors of large infrastructural projects in the country who require people with technical skills like plumbing, welding, building and plant operation.’

Mr. Joe Gethi representing the Governor, Nyeri County

He appealed to universities, TVETs and research institutions to help counter this myth by partnering in, among others, research and training initiatives for exposure of students in vocational training centres to advanced training and equipment, mentorship and guidance to encourage these students that they can succeed in life through technical training even if they do not perform well in their examinations at certain levels of education and universities and national polytechnic students taking short courses in these institutions such as hospitality, bakery, dressmaking, beauty therapy when they are on holiday; skills that could transform them from job seekers to job creators even before completing their studies.

Knowledge-based economy 

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mucai Muchiri, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic, Research and Student Affairs), Prof. Peninah Aloo-Obudho noted that students from universities and other tertiary institutions

represent the base upon which knowledge for a knowledge-based economy is anchored.

DVC (ARSA), Prof. Peninah Aloo-Obudho, representing the Vice Chancellor

He further stated that it is important for Kenya to generate knowledge as well as create and commercialize Intellectual Property in order to grow the wealth of the country. Prof. Muchiri called upon academic institutions and scholars to work towards achieving this goal. He encouraged institutions to establish Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISC) and IP Management systems due to their importance in providing support systems for researchers.

Tool for socio-economic development

Mr. Charles Mutinda, Member, Board of Directors, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) said that Intellectual Property, which deals with the creations of the human mind, has been identified as an important tool for the promotion of social, cultural and economic development. 

‘This is because, with a sound IP system, innovators and inventors are assured of recouping a return on their investment since their IP rights in form of patents, trademarks, plant breeders’ rights (PBRs) or copyright are protected. This leads to an increase in innovative and inventive activities which are key drivers to

efficient and improved production and competitiveness of products, processes and services in the market.’

Mr. Charles Mutinda, Member, Board of Director, KIPI

According to Mr. Mutinda, in order to stimulate research and innovation in universities, TVET and research institutions, KIPI has been assisting these institutions to come up with institutional IP policies to provide direction on the management of various forms of IP and clearly outlining how the various stakeholders share the benefits accruing from the exploitation of their intellectual property. The Institute has also been providing support to the institutions to establish IP Management Systems through, among others, training of personnel and advisory.

Further, in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Institute has been working with various universities, TVET and research institutions to set up Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs) to facilitate researchers to access the latest scientific and technological information and provide the innovators with various IP support services including searches,

preparing and filing applications for grant of IP rights as well as education and creation of awareness on IP.

Role of universities and other institutions

The Acting Managing Director of KIPI, Mr. John Onyango, noted that empirical evidence from developed countries indicate that universities and other tertiary institutions have an important role to play in the generation and utilization of intellectual capital in society.

‘Intellectual capital includes both the human capital and intellectual creations which comprise the intellectual property. The objective of this Workshop is to provide general awareness on Intellectual Property and the institutional and legal framework for the protection and exploitation of IP. Further, the Workshop provides a forum for exchanging experiences in IP management and exploitation.’

Ms. Eunice Njuguna representing the MD, KIPI

He stated that with appropriate strategies for the exploitation of intellectual property, new industries can come into being and ultimately lead to job creation and improvement in the welfare of people through the availability of new products and services.

‘Publication of research results per se will not solve the problems facing Wanjiku or the hustler in the street. Universities, research and TVET institutions are required to utilize the abundant knowledge existing in various places, both in physical and virtual spaces to solve these challenges.’

Other government parastatals represented are the National Research Fund (NRF) and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). Some of the participating institutions include Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Laikipia University, Kirinyaga University, Karatina University, Mama Ngina University Colleg, Gatanga TVC, Mathira TVC, Thika TTI, Tharaka TVC among others.