Stanford University has revealed plans to open a regional innovation centre in Nairobi by June 2016. The centre will be under the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), which aims to apply research and practical innovation into entrepreneurship in order to create jobs and end the cycle of poverty in developing economies.

The announcement follows the opening of applications for the inaugural SEED Transformation Program, which focuses on innovation and training entrepreneurs to develop new products and services to enable them to scale up their ideas into viable businesses.

The facility in Nairobi will be the second venture into the African entrepreneurial ecosystem by Stanford SEED, following the Regional Centre for West Africa established in Accra in June 2013.

“We support vital research which can fuel future breakthroughs in fundamental knowledge,” said Davis Albohm, SEED’s associate director in charge of global operations.

Stanford joins IBM, Samsung and Nokia who have set up innovation hubs in Nairobi. In a statement, the university says that Kenya was selected to host the East Africa lab due in part to Nairobi’s global repute for tech innovation and enterprise.

“Nairobi is important from a perspective of existing infrastructure, demographics, business climate and several other factors,” said Mr Albohm.

Columbia University has also opened a research centre in Nairobi, the Columbia Global Centre Africa, established in January 2013.

Other innovation spaces in Nairobi include the World Bank-funded Climate Innovation Centre, Brave Venture Labs, Growth Africa, the Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Centre at Kenyatta University, FabLab at the University of Nairobi, and C4Dlab among others.

SEED was founded in 2011 as a Stanford Graduate School of Business initiative after receiving a $150 million (Sh15 billion) gift from Robert King, an alumnus and venture capitalist, and his wife Dorothy.

The programme targets start-ups and companies grossing between $150,000 and $15 million to help them scale rapidly, create jobs, connect with other players in their industries and develop ideas into commercial enterprises.

Stanford SEED’s entrepreneurship training is highly interactive and allows leaders to discover and apply tools and methodologies that will help them transform their businesses.

Applications for the SEED Transformation Program in East Africa are open, and the cost per participant is $1,500. The course takes six months, and the application deadline is 15 January 2015.

“At the end of the six-month programme, there will be the opportunity to apply for hands-on coaching from seasoned executives and entrepreneurs,” Mr Albohm said.

Arrangements on where the hub will be housed are being finalized.

Photo via Stanford SEED

Eric Mugendi Author

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