Still relatively at a nascent stage, the field of sustainable entrepreneurship has been a subject of a number of research and scholarly work in the recent years. Just what exactly is it, what are the processes involved, and what are some of the models of sustainable entrepreneurship? This was the theme of a research seminar on Wednesday, 6 April, 2022 at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) by visiting Professor, Prof. Dr. Frank-Martin Belz.

According to Prof. Belz, sustainable entrepreneurship pursues a triple bottom line approach of economic, social and ecological goals.

“Ideally, sustainable entrepreneurship is geared towards achieving sustainable development, and sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” he postulated.

Part of the live audience follow proceedings at the research seminar.

In a published 2015 paper titled “Handbook of Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development” Binder and Belz explore sustainable entrepreneurship as the scholarly examination of how opportunities to bring into existence future goods and services are recognized, developed and exploited by whom and with what economic, ecological and social gains.

Prof. Belz hails from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany, where he serves as the Chair of Corporate Sustainability at the TUM School of Management. The Entrepreneurship scholar also serves as the Director of the TUM SEED Centre, which aims to offer higher education at the intersection of Sustainable Energies and Entrepreneurship, as well as conducting research towards the 2030 Sustainable Development goals.

Prof. Belz and Mohammed listen to questions during Q & A session at the seminar.

Alongside his PhD student, Mohammed Bendaanane, Prof. Belz is in the University to visit the JKUAT SEED Centre, a five-year joint initiative between JKUAT and TUM in line with the 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, particularly rural communities that are off-grid.

The DAAD-funded project has so far seen to the installation of a mini-grid plant at the remote Olderkesi in Narok West, which is set for commissioning in the coming months. The Project aims at co-creating a renewable energy based mini-grid with the community members to address the acute energy challenges experienced in the area. Through energy provision, the living lab will expand the community’s engagement in economic activities that are dependent on energy supply and spur entrepreneurship activities through an energy, water and food nexus.

A round-table discussion with the core JKUAT SEED team.

Prof. Belz’s research seminar comes barely a week after the JKUAT SEED Centre hosted a Public Lecture by Prof. Markus Disse, the Chair, Hydrology and River Basin Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Prof. Disse’s lecture was titled “Drought and Flood Management, dealing with Uncertainties in Hydrological Models”. He was also is in the University alongside his PhD student, Mr. Pablo Sarmiento, who was collecting data from the Olderkesi living lab for his PhD thesis.

Globally, there are still a billion people with no access to electricity, and the vision of the SEED project, according to Prof. Belz, is to create lighthouses out of the living labs being built by the project across the global south, as bright-shining centres of excellence on the infinite possibilities of sustainable entrepreneurship.

Speaking at the research seminar, JKUAT Council Chair, Amb. Eng. Mahboub Maalim lauded the project’s focus on renewable energy, terming it a true game-changer in development and social change.

Amb. Mahboub makes his remarks virtually.

“I come from a remote part of the country myself, and it was until high school that I knew what a bulb was, or that there is such a thing as electricity. Your focus on rural energy is therefore very instrumental. I’m also glad that this initiative is channeling efforts towards research, entrepreneurship and innovation, with a focus on sustainability, because this is where the world is headed,” he opined.

“As a council member, I am glad such research collaborations are happening, and that we are in touch with the global community. This seminar for instance has been insightful and illuminating. The areas of future partnerships are infinite, and we shall fully support,” added Amb. Mahboub.

On his part, Ag. Principal, College of Engineering and Technology (COETEC), Dr. Eng. Hiram Ndiritu, made a rallying call for scholars and researchers to embrace multi-disciplinary research, citing the example of the SEED Project.

“Sustainable Energies and Entrepreneurship Development as the name of the project in itself meant from the onset that engineers, entrepreneurs, and other scientists had to come together to make the initiative successful. We’ve so far seen the great potential in multidisciplinary research, and I can attest that this should be the way to go. We can no longer afford to operate in silos as members of the academia,” he said.

The research seminar also touched on the processes of sustainable entrepreneurship, as well as related concepts such as social entrepreneurship, environmental entrepreneurship, green entrepreneurship, ecopreneurship, and conventional entrepreneurship. Prof. Belz and his team also held meetings with faculty from the School of Business and Entrepreneurship (SoBE) to explore areas of research collaboration.

Prof. Belz and Mr. Mohammed were hosted by the JKUAT SEED Centre team, led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Bernard Ikua, Dr. Eng. Hiram Ndiritu, Prof. Willy Muturi, Dr. Meshack Hawi, Mr. Dennis Koech, Ms. Cynthia Wainaina, Mr. Tobias Belle, and Ms. Susan Kisengeu.

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