A major challenge for industry in Africa is to innovate: initiate, or adapt fast enough to changes in the economic and commercial business environment. Doing this in a sustainable way means catering to human needs while maintaining the environmental and natural resources and local communities as a long term pre-condition for human societies.
The relevance of successful and flexible innovative capabilities among industry, knowledge institutes, non-governmental organisations and governments is directly related to this challenge. Key topics are product innovation, process innovation and organizational innovation.
The United Nations Industry Development Organisation (UNIDO) together with leading universities in Africa and Europe is initiating a network on industrial innovation as a vehicle to create a substantial capacity in African countries, both in academia and in industry, for supporting the current and raising the next generation of industrial innovators.
In a consultative round with the participating universities the needs and opportunities in this area were assessed. Next, a more specific action plan was developed in April 2007 during a joint expert group meeting. A support package is being developed and end of 2007, 50 practical universityindustry cooperation projects on sustainable innovation will be started.
Parallel to these activities, funding by private sector, bilateral donors and EU will be secured. The network is envisioned to grow into a global network between at least 300 universities in 2013.