In 2012, a professor of Engineering in Egypt’s Cairo University won the Innovation Prize for Africa after creating a new in-phone and mobile antennae that operates on all frequency bands and addresses challenges faced by the existing antennas. His innovation would have ended up as just one of the very great innovations from Africa that never quite have any significant impact, as it required more research to ensure its continued relevance. But with the prize he won from IPA, an initiative of the African Innovation Foundation founded by Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, Professor Mohammed Sanad was able to engage in more research. That is not all.
“Winning the IPA 2012 Grand Prize has opened many doors,” says Sanad, an Egyptian antenna scientist.
“The antenna I developed makes it possible to upgrade mobile phone technology without having to discard equipment. For instance, the technology makes it possible to upgrade from 2G to 3G and upwards to 4G LTE without adding new equipment. Obviously, such innovations require ongoing research and development and the prize money of USD100,000 enabled us to engage in more comprehensive R&D,” the professor in Cairo University Faculty of Engineering adds.
“Moreover, winning the IPA significantly increased global market awareness of the new technology and helped put African ICT innovation on the world map. We were approached by international telecommunications companies such as Vodafone with whom we have established new R&D projects. The exposure we received also enabled us to attract distinguished engineers to join our R&D efforts.”
Prof. Sanad speaks of the kind of infrastructure needed by African innovators in order to upscale their innovation.
“I believe that Africa needs more laboratories to support all areas of engineering on a greater scale.” he says. “We also need better manufacturing facilities to support the development of homegrown innovations more effectively.”
“Africa has so much innovation potential but we lack the know-how in fundamental areas of competency such as business development, marketing, IP rights and so much more. We need to enhance efforts to bridge this gap. African governments should also have more programs in place to support local innovators to take their innovations to the next level and become sustainable businesses that can achieve scale and be more investor-ready.”
The 2016 Innovation Prize for Africa holds in Gaborone, Botswana from June 22 – 23, 2016.