RIAP Grantees

RAN Innovation Acceleration Program

First Round of Projects selected for support under the RAN Innovation Acceleration Program

RAN sources and supports Resilience Innovations at each of the 4 RILabs following a dual track program: 1) The Open Innovation Ideation and Incubation program (aka ‘Design Thinking Co-creation Approach’) targeting new emerging ideas is RAN’s main approach to sourcing resilience innovations. This approach systematically weaves through a systems analysis to identify change levers and priority intervention pathways leading to projects with the highest transformative potential. Ideas are sourced from international competitions that are widely publicized. 2) The Innovation Acceleration program (aka ‘Crowd Sourcing Approach’) RAN’s alternative source of innovations targets existing projects with a potential to impact on resilience. Projects are sourced within the partner universities in Africa through innovation exhibitions, inventory of existing innovations, etc. focusing on knowledge about the RILabs general thematic issues.

Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab innovation exhibition
Following the crowd sourcing approach, the Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (EA RILab) conducted an innovation exhibition on Friday the 14th of March 2014 at the auditorium of the main administration building of Makerere University. It was preceded by a call-for-exhibitors that was publicized throughout all academic units in Makerere University and to specific academic units in Gulu University which is one of the Network Plus University partners for the EA RILab.
Of the 90 teams that applied to participate in the exhibition, 33 teams were selected as eligible to participate in the actual exhibition. In order to be eligible for the exhibition, an idea should have been developed to the minimum of ‘Level II’ in RAN’s innovation pipeline (a plausible concept or simple prototype that is ready for development into a refined testable prototype or concept). Projects could also be at Level III (ready for piloting and testing) or level IV (ready for scale). The exhibition attracted over 300 people and was hosted by the RAN Chief-of-Party and officiated by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of Finance of Makerere University as the chief guest.
The exhibitors underwent three rounds of judging: Initial judgment followed two criteria 1) Potential to impact on one or more of 5 priority resilience dimensions and 2) technical plausibility giving rise to a selection of 13 ideas; the second round of judging included field inspection of the exhibitors prototypes and 7 out 13 ideas were selected; the final round of judging had the exhibitors pitch their innovation ideas and this resulted in 5 out of 7 ideas selected for RAN support.

Description of the ideas selected for Round 1 support in the Eastern Africa RILab
1. Matibabu: A non-invasive technology with the potential to revolutionalize malaria diagnosis and management in resource poor settings
Team Leader: Brian Gitta (Student); Other team members: Joshua Businge (Student), Josiah Kavuma (Student); Email: gittabrian@gmail.com; Tel: +256704319257
Malaria is endemic in 130 countries of the world, and is responsible for an estimated 300-600 million cases and 1-2 million deaths per year. The diagnosis of malaria remains a major challenge in low income countries. In general, the lack of low cost diagnostics for malaria results in late diagnosis of the disease contributing to high morbidity and mortality from severe forms of malaria, and over-treatment of malaria where syndromic management is used due to lack of point-of-care diagnostics (contributing to wastage of money on treatment of non-malarial illness especially since the new recommended Artemisinin-based therapies are expensive). The Matibabu is a pocket-sized hardware device that uses a beam of red-light to detect malaria parasites in tissues. The technology is simple to use, non-invasive, low cost and does not require blood drawing devices making it viable in primary care settings in hard-to-reach areas where the microscope is not accessible in many such contexts.

2. Root IO: A community radio technology with the potential to revolutionalize last-mile communication in hard-to-reach areas, using a mobile phone for broad-casting
Team Leader: Jude Mukundane (Student); Other team members: Chris Csikzentmihalyi (Non-student), Pete Tritish (Non-student); Email: robotic@gmail.com; judemukundane@gmail.com; Tel: +256718451574
Radio is one of the most accessible platforms for communication world-wide. In Uganda, 67% of the population use the radio regularly as a means of receiving information. On the other hand, there has been a substantial increase in mobile telephone coverage worldwide over the last decade, more so in sub-Saharan Africa. Root IO is a technology that combines the power of radio technology and the reach of mobile phone coverage to transmit radio-signals in almost any community with mobile phone coverage. The mobile phone handset can quickly become a radio transmitter when attached to a portable hardware set implying that a radio station can be set up in any community, and the same station can be re-deployed to different communities in a short period of time. This is a robust tool that can be used by community leaders to address development challenges in the communities. A prototype of this technology has been tested and optimised in a low income community. With carefully selected and prepared content, the technology has the potential to transform the way communications are conducted in various communities.

3. Unearthing the potential of earthworms: Use of biomass to massively breed earth-worms as an alternative to small fish as a source of protein in chicken feed
Fred Kabi (Faculty); Other team members: John Okiror (Faculty); fred.kabi@gmail.com; Tel: +256772657155
In many low income countries, the traditional source of protein for enhancement of nutritional content of poultry feed is the small silver fish (Rastrineobola argentea). The increased demand has driven up the price of silver fish dramatically, meaning that poultry have to compete with human beings for nutritious fish-based feeds. A team of agriculturalists from Makerere University think that the reliance of feed-processing companies on silver fish can change if an alternative like earthworm farming is embraced. The team is to develop a prototype for a unit process that can rapidly produce earth worms in agricultural communities using bio-waste as the substrate. Communities will also use local technology to process the earthworms into a form that can be mixed with chicken feed. Local out-growers will then be linked to commercial poultry feed manufacturers. It is hoped that the volume of earthworms produced by different out-growers in optimised unit-processes will have a substantial impact on reducing the poultry feed industry’s reliance on silver fish. It is also hoped that earthworm farming will contribute to livelihoods diversification among the youth. Other possible effects of this project could include awakening the awareness among the communities on the possibilities of exploration of other potential sources of animal feed protein including from nuisance insects.

4. Low cost irrigation pumps: Optimizing a very-low-cost environmentally friendly solar powered irrigation pump that can transform agriculture in semi-arid sun-rich areas
Etunganan Jacob (Student); Other members on the team: Ojara Peter (Student); Prof. Byaruhanga Joseph (Faculty); jacobetunganan@yahoo.com; Tel: +256712675730
To the semi-arid regions of Eastern Africa, water is one of the most powerful resources. In areas where surface water aquifers exist, one of the biggest challenges is the access to low cost technology to transfer water from where it is located to where it is needed. The costs of irrigation pumps currently on the market are prohibitive while the cheap pumps often powered by kerosene pause environmental and noise pollution. A team of engineers from Makerere University have developed a prototype for a very-low-cost solar powered irrigation pump that is cast from local scrap materials. The engine is under-going optimisation for efficiency. This pump has the potential to substantially increase access to low cost solutions for local irrigation and water transfer for other purposes. The team could also test mechanisms for longer distance delivery systems to transmit water over longer distances through serial reservoirs. The roll out of this technology will transform the social attitudes and perceptions about irrigation as a means to increased crop yield and livelihoods diversification in marginal communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

5. Improved Pull and Push: An innovative approach to inter-cropping that dually suppresses nuisance weeds and pests in high prevalence areas to increase agricultural yield
Wanyama Oduori Kenneth (Faculty); Other members on the team: Mugondi Kapel Jerome (Faculty); Email: wanyama.kenneth8@gmail.com; Tel: +256774091761
The yield from maize, a staple food for many communities in Eastern Africa is affected by two main nuisances: a weed called ‘Striga’ and a weevil (the Maize stock-borer). Both the weed and the weevil are highly prevalent in the low lying maize producing areas of Eastern Africa, especially where the soils are fertile. Mechanical methods of fighting the weed are labour intensive while chemical methods of fighting the stock-borer are expensive and are not echo-friendly. Evidence has shown that certain inter-cropping patterns can suppress the nuisance weed, while other inter-cropping patterns can suppress the weevil, even without chemical or manual methods (Push-and-pull systems). A team of researchers at Makerere University would like to pilot a dual strategy for inter-cropping that achieves optimum control of the Striga weed and the Maize borer in a near natural ecosystem (Improved push-and-pull). This approach to cropping can then be extended to larger holdings, helping to increase crop yield without additional expenditure on chemicals and the excess labour needs of weeding.