THE Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) has produced a dozen startups as a result of its partnership with several Indian universities and the initiative has seen locals benefit from skills transfer schemes.
In the last decade, HIT has signed memorandum of understanding agreements with 16 Indian universities that have seen its employees being sent to acquire technical skills from institutions in the Asian country to drive Zimbabwe's industrialisation agenda.
"In terms of research output that are ripe for commercialisation and coming up with startups and impacting the industry, we are leading again courtesy of the same skills," HIT vice-chancellor Quinton Kanhukamwe told Standardbusiness on the sidelines of an Indian embassy media engagement recently.
"We are allowing our researchers and lecturers, this very same personnel that have come back from India, to own shares.
"So, they are shareholders of these startups and are incentivised and motivated enough. Right now, we are running with about 12 startups."
He said the government had expanded the education strategy to a five-point plan to include innovation and industrialisation on top of teaching, research and service.
"We integrate (students coming from Indian universities) into our schools and departments, academic departments, to teach and research," Kanhukamwe said.
"The impact has been phenomenal. I think as we speak right now, we rank number one in terms of intellectual property generation courtesy of the skills these staff development fellows of ours have achieved."
The new education five-point strategy, which includes innovation and industrialisation, was introduced after President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power in November 2017.
This saw HIT creating Institech Private Limited the following month.
Institech is a registered company, which is a vehicle and holding firm for the different university projects to be commercialised into companies and firms operating in the market.
These startups include Instifoods Pvt Ltd, Gensys Technologies Pvt Ltd Instibytes Pvt Ltd, Nhume Pvt Ltd, Kamifa Pvt Ltd, Pulse Surge Pvt Ltd, Nececity Pvt Ltd, and Netro Electronics.
The other three are not mentioned as they are currently going through beta versions before being officially launched for commercial use.
HIT director of the Technology Transfer, Licensing and Commercialisation Centre, Talon Garikayi, said of the 12 startups, Instibytes, Gensys Technologies and Instifoods were the most successful.
"Instibytes: This company has already established a notable footprint in local authority administration systems by rolling out a commercial software system for nine local government authorities.
"The company was established through a copyrighted software system developed by HIT in partnership with Tetisol and CLFG," he said.
"This product is in its initial stages to be deployed in Sadc countries in the next 90 days.
"Satisfactory results have already been achieved in Zimbabwe with the startup recently winning a tender from Bikita Rural District Council in November 2018."
Since its establishment in February 2018, the company has commercialised a lot of its software systems for local government.
The most successful has been the creation of an enterprise resource planning platform called the local authority database system (Lads). The software is already being used by 15 rural district councils.
"Its main mandate is to create sustainable methods in terms of administration work for our rural district councils," Garikayi said.
Revenue-wise, Instibytes has raked in about US$200 000 from its different software systems in terms of the maintenance fees from users.
Next, is Gensys Technologies.
"This company was established in partnership with Teamview Pvt Ltd, who are the leading suppliers of transformer and power engineering-related products in Zimbabwe.
"Our startup, Gensys Technologies, is currently manufacturing transformers for the national grid," Garikayi said.
"The company has now moved out to Old Mutual Industrial Park as a fully-fledged export company specialising in power products.
"Its business operations are based on the filed patented design developed by HIT both for product and process of manufacturing and its related oil-anti-theft system."
Gensys was registered last December and has so far made US$32 000 in terms of revenue.
"Instifoods Pvt Ltd is wholly owned by HIT through its commercial arm Institech Holdings.
"The organisation has received cordial and water bottling plants.
"The water processing plant has the capacity to produce 2 000 bottles per hour, while the cordial bottling plant can produce 800 bottles an hour," Garikayi said.
"These machines are currently being installed and production commenced on 1 October 2018.
"Investors are currently being sourced for the distribution of the manufactured products."
Instifoods was also established in February 2018 and has already generated US$100 000 in revenue to date.
While the startups are up and running, Institech requires capital injection of US$1 million to get these 12 startups operating at full capacity.
"We could be able to capacitate every startup to its fullest capacity and get returns within the first 12 months of operating," Garikayi said.
In the 2019 national budget, an allocation of RTGS $375,8 million was proposed for the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development ministry to steer the Transitional Stabilisation Programme's thrust.
The government has said it wants to make the educational system "more relevant to the demands of the economy and markets".
India's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rungsung Masakui, said New Delhi was running a scholarship programme under its Human Resource Development ministry to provide scholarships to 22 Zimbabweans per year on top of what HIT was doing.
Masakui said local universities should not just be confined to academics only, but to the interaction between academics and industry.
"Suppose in India where there is a university board, industrialists sit on that board and advise," he said.
"And in industry, there will be the education professor who will be sitting there so it is a link between industry and education that is the product of what is happening now here," he said.
"I think as much as we learn from the West where they have gone far and advanced, we are picking up in the same direction where the university graduate or university product which will come out will not be completely fresh to the industry.
"You would have had some interaction with industry so that he or she (student) is ready.
"We are talking about employability where there are hundreds and hundreds of graduates, but they do not know what industry is so they are not employable at all, so this situation should be fixed."
Zimbabwe is trying to re-industrialise after years of economic decline precipitated by the country's isolation from the international community due to concerns over lack of democracy and violation of human rights.