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Blog: Nobody Innovates Alone – Good ideas must collide with other good ideas

  Mar 24, 2017

By. Bitange Ndemo.

To succeed in entrepreneurship, one must plan or think about the next paradigm shift that will change business.Then you must create value out of the situation.

Strathmore’s Energy Research Centre is gearing up to change business and life by taking advantage of the shifting paradigm in the energy sector. As the university inches closer to starting engineering courses, it is taking a different path from existing institutions by focusing on applied science.

In seeking to create value by exploiting physical resources, knowledge and creating new energy products, processes and service, they are indeed staying ahead of the competition through constant improvement and innovation.

Falling prices of green energy products have made it possible for ordinary citizens to access and afford energy, and the institution is developing enviable local capacity to take its programs higher.

My visit to Strathmore was necessitated by a visiting Japanese team of scholars from Doshisha University, in Kyoto, who arrived in Kenya to look into areas of collaboration with their engineering program.

Most institutions across the world have changed, or are changing, their engineering programs into an integrated framework that incorporates social and cognitive processes which combine innovative teaching methods with an industry-oriented curriculum.

For example, students in water engineering who intend to solve water problems will stay with a community to understand its problems before they move into design thinking and provide an eventual solution. It requires combined knowledge to deal with most problems.

It is this kind of teaching that lacks in local universities, which largely focus on theory. Upon graduation, the students are hardly employable and are less innovative.

For us to be more innovative, there must be a collision of minds.  I leant this from a TED talk by Stephen Johnson, entitled, “Where do good ideas come from?”

Johnson’s thesis in this video is that for really great and innovative ideas to make it to reality, they need to collide with other ideas to refine them. It is the group activity that leads to innovation.

Several other researchers like Amabile and Khaire corroborate Johnson’s views by asserting that enhancing creativity is not the sole fount of ideas. One must encourage collaboration to enhance diversity, accepting the inevitability and utility of failure and motivate with intellectual challenge.

To be more effective, there is need to map the stages of creativity and attend to their different needs. In most cases, multidisciplinary approaches are more effective.


The national dream of becoming an industrialised nation starts with capacity-building around innovation and creativity.  With the many problems that we have in our environment, we have the best opportunity to solve our problems as well as those in other countries.

Strathmore is taking one problem at a time and beginning to solve it, even before it launches its engineering program. They are looking into social problems and creating innovative solutions around such problem.

One of the social problems they are looking into is the problem posed by hawking in Nairobi. Many, including the city fathers, see struggling hawkers as a menace, unlike many large cities where hawkers sell their wares and leave their stations clean.

Our hawkers, on the other hand, in most cases dumb their garbage in their work environment, thus weakening their case for continued use of their workspace.

Yet the problem is not of their making. City governments often are oblivious to an enabling environment to facilitate entrepreneurship.

Strathmore University in collaboration with Solar E-Cycles Kenya Ltd, have come up with a new product dubbed SOLAR CARGO BIKE in their mobility product line.  The bikes should carry the hawker’s cargo as well as waste baskets.

The solar-powered electric product comes in two models for urban and rural environment and both can be equipped with refrigeration to curb waste.  The first one is a three-wheel configuration that carries up to 100kg and the heavy-duty four-wheel configuration that carries up to 300kgs.


The collaboration between industry and the research institution makes it possible to produce industry ready graduates.

The university closely collaborates with government especially in the sale of energy into the national grid having signed a power purchase agreement.


Follow our blog to read more stories on thought leadership. To contribute, write to Tracy Nduta on or SBS Communications  via

Story and Images Courtesy of Daily Nation.

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