Lions of Science is a charitable organisation and internet platform aiming to yearly award prizes to Kenyan students for creative and innovative projects. Participants in the contest benefit from a large network and get the opportunity to engage with a world-wide audience and international partnerships.
The organization was founded in 2012 by Kani Tuyala, a PhD-student and research associate at the Freie Universität in Berlin. Kani was born in the DR Congo and grew up in Germany.
In early 2013, Kani approached the Heinrich Boell Stiftung to identify synergies between Lions of Science and the East and Horn of Africa programme of the Foundation. The Regional Director, Katrin Seidel, agreed to become an advisor to the organization and to host the Lions of Science Kenyan team in the Foundation’s Nairobi office.
In an interview, Kani as the Chairman of Lions of Science talks about the organization, the upcoming award and plans to set up the first Green Innovation Hub in Kenya.
The second Lions of Science Award will be awarded on 30th October 2014 in Nairobi at the Goethe Institute. Who can send in their applications and under which conditions can one take part?
All Kenyan students enrolled in a university or college are welcome to participate at the Lions of Science competition by submitting their innovative project proposals. The next upload cycle will start in May 2014. The projects should aim at addressing particular challenges/needs in society, and should have a concrete and elaborate concept to enable the Lions of Science jury make well-informed decision about the project’s potential. In particular, we encourage and invite female entrepreneurs in the making to participate in the competition. This is because we strongly believe in empowerment of women and girls as one of the key drivers of socio-economic progress.
There is more information on our website www.lionsofscience.org and you can also submit your proposal online.
What awaits the contestants and who will take part in the Lions of Science contest?
All innovative projects submitted during the contest period will be reviewed by an internal jury. The jury will initially shortlist potential winning projects which will then be orally presented and defended by the applicant students during the Award ceremony. Three winners will be selected from among the participants. The winners can expect to get prize money and further assistance to develop their projects, so that they can become social entrepreneurs and contribute towards the advancement of society.
Doing it for the second time, how will the 2014 Awards be different?
We hope that the Lions of Science Award competition this time round will be more rigorous and dynamic and will cover more fields than the previous one held in 2013. We also anticipate having even more competitors. Nevertheless it was incredible to experience the success of the first Lions of Science Awards in July 2013, just one and a half years after founding LoS and without any marketing or funding.
Of course we will never stop learning and improving the way we do things, hence, with lessons learnt from the first contest, we aim for an exciting event at the Goethe-Institute Nairobi, and a very elaborate decision making process to select the award winning projects.
What impact has Lions of Science had on last year's winners? What are they doing today?
First of all it was amazing to see that showcasing of student innovations on the Lions of Science platform motivated them to give it a try and develop very innovative projects. One comment on our website stated:
“The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it’s possible. Thank you for believing in the enormous talents that lies within the boundary of Africa. “
Such feedback is a strong motivator to continue with our work even though there are challenges and hurdles to overcome.
To answer your question, the three winners gained the opportunity to get professional support to further develop their projects during an internship with some of the Lions of Science partners like the Kenyan Technology Incubators iHub and NaiLab. Being challenged and motivated by like-minded persons was perhaps the most beneficial thing for the winners – of course next to the prize money.
The first place winner, Ken-Andrew Muthui, (Innovation: Sonar Echo Eye) and second runner up, Isaac Jumba, (Hostel Hook App) are working right now to further improve their projects. The second place winner Michael Rembesa told me a few days ago that he and his team are about to present the project ('The Smart Dumpster') at the Microsoft Imagine Cup and that the innovation "is fully functional now thanks to Lions of Science."
So, beyond disbursing prize money Lions of Science supports the winners in implementing their projects by providing guidance with the first steps to becoming a successful (social) entrepreneur.
You were talking about challenges?
Lions of Science is still a very young initiative. We need financial support to enable sustainability and growth of Lions of Science as a platform for innovation and excellence. We also continue to build more partnerships that will enable us to offer additional internships in companies or organizations focusing on main fields of the winner’s projects. This is in addition to providing an opportunity to participate in entrepreneurship programs. The good thing about Lions of Science is that due to its focus and concept, the opportunities for further growth including exchange programs, internships abroad etc. are huge.
If a contestant wanted to be involved in the Lions of Science projects, how would they go about it?
It’s indeed possible to get involved with Lions of Science, especially in our current start-up phase. Let me give you a few examples. Last year’s third placed winner Isaac Jumba has become Lions of Science’s first intern. Our coordinator in Nairobi, Teresia Njoki, was one of the shortlisted presenters during the Awards 2013. Others have joined the team such as Simon Thangu who volunteered for the shooting of the first Awards presentation for A24 Media’s ‘Africa Journal’. He is now our technical coordinator. And Francis Kinyua, a lawyer we met in Nairobi, liked the Lions of Science concept so much that he acts as our Legal Counsel for East Africa. Also the above mentioned winners Ken-Andrew Muthui and Michael Rembesa offered their help. It’s fantastic for me to learn about this Kenyan spirit of voluntarily supporting what one likes.
So Lions of Science is more than the Awards?
Yes. Lions of Science is in the process of starting the first Green Innovation Hub which will be based at the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s Nairobi office. The hub will offer space where mentorship/guidance to those interested in submitting projects as well as selected winners will take place. The hub will further allow students the opportunity to meet with professionals in their respective fields; brainstorm on project ideas and be supported in project/business development. In addition, the hub will serve as a meeting point for project participants with previous Award winners to interact and share ideas and experiences.
I therefore encourage all students in universities and colleges interested in more information about Lions of Science, to visit our website at www.lionsofscience.org or join Lions of Science through facebook.com/LionsofScience