Stimulating Industrial Development in Uganda Through Open Innovation Incubators

Abstract: Uganda’s economy is agro-based; although the country is land locked it has great potential for industrial development. It is well endowed with natural resources and salubrious climate, but with little success in transforming its agricultural and mineral wealth into processed commodities for local, regional and international markets. The Uganda’s National Development Plan 2010- 2014 and Uganda Vision 2040 call for a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years. To achieve this goal, Ugandan economy needs to be industrialized. This need is one of the identified strategic bottlenecks. Various strategies and action plans have been developed to steer the country’s economy towards sustainable development and increased competitiveness but with little success. It has been recognized globally that economic development depends heavily on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the prime source of new jobs and play a crucial role in income generation as well as in industrialization processes. However, most small businesses fail within their early stages of operation mainly due to under-capitalization and / or lack of proper management and business skills. Globally, through business incubators, start-ups and SMEs have been significantly enhanced to overcome their initial and critical stages of development. Business incubators have been tried in Uganda but not in a successful way. An Open Innovation Business Incubator is a physical or virtual environment that combines the attributes of open innovation and business incubation concepts in creating and supporting new start-ups. This research aimed at understanding more of the situation in Uganda, how the innovation systems and incubators are managed in other countries and to design a model for how to create better conditions for incubators in Uganda and similar low-income countries and stimulate industrial development. The proposed model has adopted an open innovation approach and a list of suggestions and recommendations has been made. Different methodological tools and participatory approaches were utilized in the process of undertaking the study to achieve the objectives. Data were collected through literature review, analysis of relevant theories such as industrialization, entrepreneurship, science, technology and innovation, business incubation, triple helix and clusters theory, open innovation, and public private partnerships. Review of Government reports and policy documents, discussions with industrial and incubation experts, surveys, focus group discussions and case studies were done. Useful ideas were obtained from seminars and conferences. Research findings indicated that: • There are hardly any graduate incubatees in Uganda, thus there is a need to foster partnerships and synergies between government, private sector/non-government organizations and academia for open incubation, • All incubators in Uganda focus on incubatees developing technologies and products but not on business models , • Open innovation incubators combined with entrepreneurial oriented strategies can effectively support start-ups and SMEs but requires strong mutual trust amongst actors, • Through public-private partnerships and open innovation incubators, industrial transformation can be stimulated.