Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
THE Government has joined other Sadc countries in launching a $73 000 fund to support and encourage innovations by women in the bio-sciences sector.
The focus area for this grant covers innovative scientific and technological solutions in the human health, human and animal nutrition sectors that are at prototype phase and have a less than 12-month period to commercialisation.
The project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development through the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef).
Zimdef chief executive officer Mr Frederick Mandizvidza said the project seeks to support health and nutrition innovations which can be commercialised.
“The matching grant is for organisations in the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) member states, namely, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, and Madagascar, and are into health and nutrition innovations with potential regional and global impact and which can be commercialised. Up to R1 million (about US$73 000) will be awarded per project,” said Mr Mandizvidza.
“This is the dawn of a new era in the drive towards deepening of applied research and development coupled with the harnessing of emerging technologies set to benefit the wider population of our region. This is how government and our Ministry, through Zimdef, is increasing access to opportunities by women to high-end scientific skills and their participation in business and technology start-ups”.
Mr Mandizvidza said scientific knowledge divorced from practical solutions is of no value and should have never been acquired in the first place.
“Our desire is to bridge the gap between science as a body of knowledge and its commercial value through promotion of special skills that lead to Female Biological Business (FemBioBiz) Startups.
“As you might be aware, government’s vision is to industrialise and modernise, an aspiration that can only come true if we embark on a STEM-driven strategy that taps into the best scientific and technological talents the country has and translate it into viable start-ups,” said Mr Mandizvidza.
Mr Mandizvidza said traditionally, there have always been very few opportunities for women seeking to compete and grow businesses in biological sciences.
“Similarly, it is a noble endeavour, and a calling to this generation of female scientists and practitioners of science to relentlessly pursue leadership, technological and skills development designed to commercialise advances that will improve health, food supply and nutrition while eliminating hereditary diseases afflicting our people,” he said.
Last week, a FemBioBiz pitch workshop, the first of its kind to be held in Zimbabwe under a collaborative arrangement between Zimdef and SANBio, an arm of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and supported by the BioFISA II Programme was held in Harare.
The programme is being rolled out in three phases where the top performing individual will be selected to qualify for the second phase.
During the second phase, the successful competitor will go through a mentorship programme, culminating in the pitching event at the South Africa Innovation Summit in September 2017.
The third and final phase will see the best performer going to Finland, in Europe, to attend Slush and to receive a seed cash prize of ZAR250 000 (approximately US$18 200) to develop their science-driven business.
“Slush is the world’s leading start-up event where founders and tech talent meet with top-tier international investors, executives and the media. Slush 2017 will take place on November 30 to December 1 in Helsinki, Finland.”