World’s First Innovation Ecosystem dedicated to Assistive Technology launched

by Amref Health Africa

The Global Disability Innovation (GDI) and UK Department for International Development (DFID) in partnership with Amref Health Africa launched the world’s first Assistive Technology Innovation Accelerator in a high-level discussion on Inclusive Innovation.  Held at the University of Nairobi, the Inclusive Innovation roundtable hosted key innovators, disabled people, Government, stakeholders, assistive technology experts and diversity champions to set the agenda for Innovate Now over the coming 3-5 years.

The Accelerator will be part of the Innovate Now programme, a £1.5m investment in African businesses that will provide advanced business and technical support to accelerate over 100 start-ups and assistive technology innovations based within the thriving technology ecosystem in Nairobi.

Applications to be part of Innovate Now are open from the 10 of June to the 10 of August 2019 on the website innovationchallenge fund. The chosen innovators will join the accelerator for 3 months from September to November this year.

Bringing human-centred design expertise, together with users of AT, research capacity, acceleration support and capital – the aim of this programme is to bridge the ‘valley of death’ for AT start-ups, towards market and global scale. In the long-run up to 50 businesses could be supported, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with new AT products. 

Two businesses–Motivation and Amparo– have already brought their AT innovations to this ecosystem, to be joined by many African innovators.

This programme is part of the £20m AT2030 programme, funding by UKAID which aims to reach over 3 million people, through testing new approaches to get assistive technology to those who need it around the world – at present up to 900m people – and backing ‘what works’.

Statements from key stakeholders

The UK government is proud to fund Assistive Technology 2030 (AT2030), a global project focusing on how to increase access to affordable and high-quality Assistive Technology. Close to a billion people in the world are not able to access such technology.

It is a privilege to participate in the launch of the Spark Innovation sub-program focusing on the Assistive Technology Innovation Ecosystem in Kenya. We hope Kenya will become a global leader in affordable assistive technology innovation. We want to help change the lives of people living with disabilities by giving them greater mobility and dignity.“- Julius Court, Head of DFID Kenya

“The East Africa innovation ecosystem is fast-evolving and the ‘African Silicon Valley’ is becoming a reality in Africa. At the same time, Assistive Technology (AT) is increasingly needed and scarce within the East African Community. Amref Enterprises is committed to partner with Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub to comprehensively address challenges around disability in Africa as envisioned in the 4 major commitments declared during the Global Disability Summit in 2018, to implement the national disability policy on assistive devices and support services. We are proud to work strategically with GDI towards achieving this goal. We will discuss inclusive innovation in the Assistive Technology space at the Nairobi Innovation Week which will lead to the start of Assistive Technology Accelerator dubbed Innovate Now to address the challenges of access, cost and quality assistive technology to nearly 1 billion across the world.” Dr Frasia Karua, General Manager, Amref Enterprises Limited

This is a first for us. We know that Nairobi is a thriving hub of new technology and Startup businesses but to turn our attention to inclusion is genuinely innovative. I have seen many AT start-up’s fail because they don’t have the right support; and we know that codesigning solutions with AT users leads to the best results. We can’t wait to get going. Assistive Technology means access! Access to dignified livelihoods, work, social and economic participation.” –Bernard Chiira, Director, Innovate Now

Assistive technology has the potential to enable and empower and can be a key part of delivering the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The launch of the Innovation Ecosystem in Nairobi– a leading country in innovation– is a fantastic demonstration of the power that collaboration and partnerships can bring to make universal access to assistive technology possible around the world”- Lord Chris Holmes, MP UK Government

Kenya co-hosted the Global Disability Summit (GDS 2018) alongside the UK Government and International Disability Alliance last year (2018) with the main objective of promoting inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in all spheres of life. It committed to develop and implement a National Disability Policy on Assistive devices and support services, and ultimately set up an Assistive Technology Hub focusing on Assistive Technologies.

We are committed to working strategically with Global Disability Innovation Hub towards achieving this Goal.  The roundtable discussion on inclusive innovation to launch ‘Innovate now Assistive Technology Accelerator’ at the Nairobi Innovation Week is an important step toward achieving the dreams of Persons with Disabilities who require accessible, affordable and quality Assistive Technologies in Kenya. My Ministry will work in partnership with this initiative to ensure its success as promoting and enhancing the rights of Persons with Disabilities is our key role”- Mr. Nelson Marwa, Principal Secretary State Department for Social Protection, Government of Kenya

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