Hardware Things: How government-led R&D can succeed
Happy new year! Hope you’re taking some time to relax.
In the spirit of new year resolutions, I would like to invite you to support Hardware Things as a member. Every last quarter of the year, you will receive the Hardware Things Zine shipped to your address - among other perks!
Something that’s been on my mind
Governments have long been involved in R&D efforts, with different levels of success across the continent. In the last month, I’ve become quite taken by Algeria’s government-led research institutions and how they continuously have a high output of great work.
Four years ago, in an interesting interview with SciDev, the Director of Scientific Research and Technological Development in their Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research spoke about the upturn in their scientific output due to increased funding and their new focus turning scientific ideas into [hardware] product development.
One of their most prolific outfits for this has been the Research Centre in Industrial Technologies (CRTI), whose job is to develop manufacturing and metrology technologies, as well as drones and non-destructive testing methods. One of their recent patents has been for a composite material production machine [PDF, in french] that employs liquid resin infusion.
In just five years, CRTI now employs more than 750 personnel. In going through their publications, one thing that’s apparent is that their strategy seems to be to find research areas that are immediately applicable in their country but where the prior art outside their country is a little dated. This ensures that their local industry buys in quickly and the researchers are able to get cited at the same time.
I’m looking forward to learning of other successful government-led R&D to product development examples on the continent, if you know of some please hit me up!
Things I enjoyed reading
Particle board is a wood product usually made from chips or sawdust joined with adhesives, widely used for furniture and panels. Researchers in Senegal and manufacturers in Benin, Mali and Togo have found a way to produce particle board from cotton stems, which is otherwise a waste product that’s incinerated after cotton is harvested, a method that could be useful for the local furniture industry in reducing the price of raw materials.
In Ethiopia, electric mitads - cookstoves for making bread - are the most prevalent energy-intensive appliances. The country’s Power Energy Authority recently released new guidelines for electric stove manufacturing to improve the efficiencies of new stoves - and save energy in the long run. I particularly love the testing reports shown in the annex of the document!
The GSM Association released their State of Internet Connectivity Report 2020 last month, and one thing of note is that 2019 was the first year where mobile broadband connections (4G & 3G) on the continent were more than 2G - a good indication of possible opportunities for new technology adoption.
Stephen Mouafo is building a neonatal incubator for off-grid clinics. [Cameroun]
YoupiLab produces programmable digital timer switches. [Benin]
NileBot is a real-time monitoring system for fish farms produced by Conative Labs. [Egypt]
Things to apply for
Grand Challenges is accepting proposals for Smart Farming innovations targeted at small-scale producers/farmers, the call emphasizes that the innovations should be delivered through bundled farmer services and enabled by scalable digital and data platforms.
The Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre and AllOn are receiving applications for their Embryo Incubation Program. The program is intended for ideation stage entrepreneurs in the renewable energy space.
In Nigeria, Film Anatomie is developing film equipment such as sliders and cranes for the huge film industry in the country. Their flagship product, the SlideX camera slider, has been a big hit for the company who has their manufacturing operations in Lagos, and I expect that to continue in the face of the country’s exchange rate issues.
Have a great year!
Thanks to Seyi for sending in the AllOn link.