IRST restructured to boost industrial development
For many years, domestic research and industrial production have mostly ran independent courses. This was due to the structure of some scientific research institutions like the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST) which were limited to doing research without actually getting involved in the application of the results.
This environment was not favoring the growth of industrial production, yet Vision 2020 envisages a more diversified economy with reduced importance of agriculture and in increased share for industry. And while the industrial sector is still small, contributing around 18% of GDP, the target is to increase it to 26%.
It is for this reason that IRST is to be reformed to become to become the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA) in order to support industrial growth, which according to the national industrial policy should reach 12% annually.
“There was a big gap between research and industrial production because we were limited to finding research formulas,” explained Dr Jean Baptiste Nduwayezu, the director general of IRST. “But with NIRDA, our research is going to be business-oriented.”
Increased industrial activity would also contribute to achieve the employment targets of Vision 2020 by increasing non-farm employment to 1.4 million jobs so as to reduce the rate of people relying on agriculture, which currently employs around 80% of the whole workforce.
According to Nduwayezu, the new agency will have the capacity not only to conduct research, but also to get involved in investment to demonstrate the practical feasibility to private sector. IRST had of late already moved in that direction in its research into the production of bio-diesel. Not only did the institute find ways to produce the fuel from locally grown plant (especially jatropha), but it is currently also envisaging a public-private partnership to reach a level of production that can meet national demand.
The new agency will be working hand in hand with incubation centers across the country to take local products or production methods to an industrial level. For instance, one are that shows promise is that of traditional medicine, which today is still a cottage industry.
The reform of IRST will also see its the department of humanities and arts, which has in the past produced several volumes on language and culture, transferred to the recently launched Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture.