1. What is it?
The National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub is a unit of the university that incubates start-up businesses. It formed part of the NUL 2015-2020 Strategic Plan in 2015. Its formation was approved by the 354th ordinary meeting of the NUL Senate. It’s activities were further operationalized by the 367th meeting of the NUL Sanate as it approved the NUL Intellectual Property Policy. Its opening was then inaugurated by His Majesty and the Vice Chancellor, King Letsie III (See the Pic) late 2018.
2. How does it incubate businesses?
Commercializable ideas or results of experiments from NUL laboratories are tested for their business potential at the Hub. Since the Hub focuses mostly on manufacturing businesses, registered businesses are tested for (i) the market acceptability of their products (ii) the soundness of their processing methods and (iii) the proven availability of their raw materials.Basically, incubation is a form of applied and practical research. According to the IP policy, all the University staff and students have equal opportunity to create ideas that can be part of the Hub if they are deemed fit and there is enough funding to support them.
3. Is the Hub an income-generating arm of the University?
No. Since it focuses its efforts on incubation, a form of applied research meant to prove and enable a business concept at the same time, there is no way anyone can directly make money out of true incubation. Setting up such a unit as an income-generating arm of the university would miss the bigger picture, which is, to create businesses that will, in turn, graduate to create thousands of jobs for the nation, which is a long-term goal.
4. Why is this kind of applied research ( incubation) important?
Unlike other forms of research which mostly pursue knowledge for its own sake, every single lesson learned during incubation is immediately implemented to create smarter businesses, some of which are already creating jobs and having a direct impact on the lives of ordinary Basotho. Part of the knowledge created during incubation is called the TACIT knowledge which is a very important form of knowledge in business (if you know that you can’t learn driving or swimming by only reading about them, then you know what tacit knowledge is). Some of the products being made by these companies are already beating international brands and will soon put Lesotho on the map.
5. What is the difference between the NUL Innovation Hub and Tloutle Holdings?
The Hub is a university unit. Tloutle is a company completely owned by NUL which ensures that the interests of NUL are taken care of in any processes that commericalize the Intellectual property of the University. For instance, it ensures that it takes shareholding in most of the NUL initiated spin-off companies. It is important to note that NUL Innovation Hub is not run by Tloutle. No external legal entity can run a university unit.
6. So who runs the Hub?
It has a Coordinator. The Coordinator reports to a committee of 12 volunteer academics known as NUL Innovations Committee, the committee, in turn, reports to the office of the Vice Chancellor. The Hub does not have a battalion of employees as some seem to think. Rather, it incubates businesses, which are also independent legal entities, each of which have its own employees.
7. How is the Hub supported financially?
Both the university itself and many other external bodies have put funding into the Hub. We will mention the financiers one by one in the future.
8. Does the university have a business doing business?
Universities, by their nature, shouldn’t and can’t run businesses. They are simply not designed for that. However, modern universities have realized they should CREATE businesses because they are creators and depositories of knowledge and they congregate some of the brightest young minds into one place.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford Universities [they sometimes switch places as the best universities in the world] have each, directly or indirectly, created more than 40, 000 companies which, if they were completely owned by those universities, each of them would be as rich as the tenth richest country in the world. Closer home, Zimbabwe is mandating its universities to create Innovation Hubs and Industrial Parks as a matter of national policy.
University of Cape Town, the best in Africa, has a shareholding in numerous companies created out of its own research. There is a whole new area of academic research called “Academic Entrepreneurship,” which is exploring ways in which universities can spew start-up companies. The modern university is an Entrepreneurial University. When knowledge meets business, miracles are happen.
9. Did the Hub create a COVID-19 “cure” and out of “Lengana”?
NUL Innovation Hub is not Madagascar. The hub has never created such a cure and it has never claimed it had.
10. Was creating the Hub a good idea?
Here, we will allow evidence to speak for itself. https://business.facebook.com/LesothoResearchandInnovations