US$5 million allocated for university technology hubs

The Zimbabwe government has set aside more than US$5 million to put in place technology hubs at six state-run universities in a move that it hopes will spearhead the country’s industrialisation and modernisation.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira said the first university hub is expected to be commissioned next month.

He said the hubs will transform the education sector from a service sector to a production sector. “Our level of development is lower than our literacy rate and this is a shift. It is not necessarily a revolution to other countries, but it’s a revolution to us. We want to transform the education system from a service sector to a production sector.”

The University of Zimbabwe, the National University of Science and Technology, the Harare Institute of Technology, the Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology and the Zimbabwe National Defence University will benefit from the initiative.

“The universities are putting in place the structures. We have more than US$5 million for this. We will continue to make the hubs more complex. It’s a continuous process that we will continue to fund annually,” said Murwira.

The innovation hubs will test good ideas and turn them into prototypes before patenting.

The push to ensure that Zimbabwe’s universities have industrial hubs took root last year, with the government coming up with a Taskforce on Transformation of Higher Education for Industrialisation and Modernisation chaired by University of Zimbabwe Vice-Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura.

Since then, government has been saying the institutions must transform into industrial hubs rather than merely being graduate-producing and certificate-awarding institutions.

As a precursor to the launch of the innovation hubs, a delegation of university vice-chancellors and legal experts embarked in May last year on a three-week tour of universities in Asia and South America that have industrial hubs.

Last October, Nyagura announced that local universities had introduced 15 new degrees as part of revamping academic programmes. They include: aeronautical engineering, optometry, forensic science, renewable energy, exploration geophysics, applied biotechnology, plant breeding and biotechnology, livestock production and value addition, food processing systems and technology, agricultural mechanisation systems and management, geographical information science and earth observation, meteorology and climate science, otorhinolaryngology, orthodontics, as well as culture and heritage studies.

The chairperson of the taskforce said that at his own institution, the University of Zimbabwe, the institution’s College of Health Sciences would be investing US$200 million in building a medical tourism hospital, the first of its kind in the country. He said plans for the establishment of the medical hub were at an advanced stage and the site for construction had already been identified.