The University of Mauritius has launched a series of ambitious new projects to attract Africa’s most innovative companies to partner in developing the island nation’s industries of the future.
As part of a wider mission to establish itself as a research-engaged and entrepreneurial University, the University is seeking increased engagement with the private sector in research-focused projects.
In early 2019, the University launched an ambitious Agritech Park project by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Mauritius based technology firm Harrel Mallac.
The partnership will allow students to develop the practical skills required by industry in tandem with their studies. Furthermore, the partnership forms part a wider strategy to develop the artificial intelligence sector in Mauritius, particularly in the area of digital agriculture.
Encouraging innovation in Mauritius is considered vital for the diversification of the national economy, and the continued development of the country.
Global regulatory changes continue to cast a shadow over of the future of Mauritius place as an international financial services hub. The tourism industry will remain undoubtedly strong but growth potential does have a limit in a country which rightly prioritises sustainability over profit.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, Professor Dhanjay Jhurry, belives the University has always been at the forefront of the economic evolution of the country, and that the Agritech Park is the next stage of this process. “Ever since its creation, the University of Mauritius has played a crucial role in the socio-economic progress of the country” explains Professor Jhurry.
Professor Jhurry, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius
“Today, it continues to play a strategic role in assisting government in its endeavour to position Mauritius as a knowledge hub and become a high-income economy.
“We have 21 acres of land next to the campus which will be developed into an Agritech Park with the backing of the state.
“The AgriTech Park will focus on developing smart agriculture, biotech, and food security. We want to work closely with the private sector, encourage them to come and invest in the Park and grow research, innovation and entrepreneurial startups in those areas.
“The sky is the limit! Just imagine what we can do in terms of digital agriculture.
“A number of international universities including the University of Pretoria and the University of Adelaide have expressed an interest in collaborating in the project.
“We are already working with a number of local private sector partners and we are opening this up to international partners to come in now.
“Increasingly Mauritius has less land available for agriculture. We need to produce more with less.”
The Five Industries of The Future
The University has identified five sectors in which it intends to build research excellence in order to drive national development, and impact upon the development of the African continent.
In each area increasing funding for research is a priority for the University, alongside developing an entrepreneurial culture through collaboration with the private sector.
Agriculture & Marine
The University of Mauritius has 21 acres of land for use as an Agritech Park
The Agritech Park project will tap into the potential of digital agriculture within the African context.
Rob Dongoski, Agribusiness leader at Ernst & Young, states that the coming digital agricultural revolution will be the most rapid and significant time of change in the history of the sector.
“By 2050, the global population is expected to increase by almost 40% to 9.6 billion people. In order to feed this drastically increasing population, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that the agriculture industry will need to produce 70% more food while only being able to use 5% more land. This means approximately 1 billion tons more wheat, rice and other cereals, and 200 million more tons of livestock per year, on almost the same agricultural surface area.
“This, coupled with growing environmental and regulatory pressures, presents a daunting challenge for the global farming industry. Since most land suitable for agriculture is already farmed, this growth must come from higher yields.
The digital agriculture revolution can provide the solutions to the problem of feeding the world sustainably.”
The Agritech Park will act as an incubator for emerging enterprises ready to maximise use of land in Mauritius. As Prof. Jhurry explains “Another component of the AgriTech Park will be an agro-processing incubator, this shows how we are indeed working for the development of the country. We are looking to encourage entrepreneurial activity in the sector.
Our idea is to bridge a gap. If we are able to take our students from lab to proof of concept through the AgriTech Park, we will have won. If we can interest people to come to the University to develop ideas with backup and support from the University, we will have won.”
Skytron solar power project in Mauritius
Mauritius has set a target to use renewables to supply 35% of the country’s energy needs by 2025.
The national government has set out a Renewable Energy Roadmap encourages investment in solar, biomass, waste-to-energy, onshore wind, hydro, offshore wind and wave.
Biomass and waste-to-energy have particular potential for further development in the country in line with the development of sustainable agriculture practices.
IT & Digital Technology
Having established its Faculty of Communication, Information and Digital Technologies in 2017, the University is seeking to build an entire ecosystem to encourage research focused on the future of digital technology.
Mauritius is seeking to incubate a generation of African tech startups and the Mauritius African Fintech Hub has been established to encourage investment and innovation within the financial services industry.
Closing the R&D gap in African healthcare is one of the critical long-term challenges facing the continent. Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population, yet only accounted for 1.1% of global investments in R&D in 2016. Health science research, funding and research capacity are insufficient to address Africa’s current unmet health needs, and increased collaboration between the private sector and academia is required.
Socio-Economic Development and Tourism
The tourism industry has been a driver of Mauritius economic growth, and the University will encourage ground-up research and innovation which ensures the industry can continue to develop in a sustainable manner.
A Call to Action For Private Sector Partnership
The University of Mauritius is seeking to attract African and global companies ready to explore research partnerships in those industries which will shape the future of Mauritius and Africa. “As you can see, the mindset is all about opening up the University and not being in that ivory tower” says Prof. Jhurry
“It is about opening the university to industry and opening the university to the community.
“My ultimate goal is to develop innovation which will impact the economy. We must build on research by also developing an entrepreneurial culture.
“Innovation is at the centre of our goals. The University should not be considered the centre of our work, innovation is at the centre and the University is a partner in developing innovation. This is an important mindset shift.”
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