CIIE is known for playing a pro-active role in developing a strong ecosystem for entrepreneurs to create scalable businesses and help them flourish. We carry out ecosystem development activities towards this goal in all of our verticals (and horizontals): ICT, social impact, cleantech. One of the several aspects of our ecosystem building activities is that we like to share our experiences and knowledge, for the benefit of others starting out in this space. We also try and go a step further by enabling others to learn from our experiences and mistakes through pioneering capacity building initiatives like the GIZ-Aarohan programme.
Recently, the cleantech team was involved in one such knowledge sharing activity. Along with our partners – International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Department for International Development (DfID) – CIIE helped organize a workshop on “Best practices in decentralized renewable energy access: sharing knowledge for renewable energy enterprise development”. The workshop was held on 15 June 2014 in Manila, Philippines, as part of the International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference 2014.
Objectives and participants:
The objective of the workshop was to provide an opportunity to initiate and facilitate knowledge transfer between various stakeholders in the energy access enterprise development ecosystem in South Asia and Africa. In addition, the focus was to identify opportunities to strengthen enterprise development and, through a collaborative programme, assist in the improvement of regulations, access to finance, facilitation of technology, business model delivery on innovative approaches, and enhancement of skills of energy access entrepreneurs.
The workshop had an attendance of 43 participants from 35 organizations from South Asia and Africa, representing a diverse spectrum of functions, sectors and capacities. These included business incubators, renewable energy industry associations, entrepreneurs, investors, multilateral donor organizations, financial institutions and consulting firms. The diversity of the group ensured a lively discussion in the latter half of the day that involved group discussions.
Some relevant documentation from the event:
- Agenda: Agenda_Pre-IOREC Workshop_10 06 14.
- List of participants: Participants_Pre-IOREC Workshop_15 06 14
- Participant profiles: Profile Booklet_compiled new
Some key action points arrived at after the workshop:
- Creating a knowledge sharing platform and sharing each other’s experiences and tools.
- Twinning of incubation centers between Asia and Africa, whereby each could learn from the other, arrange for exchange visits for staff, and ‘shadow’ entrepreneurs as they grow in their businesses.
- Holding coordination meetings, arranged by national governments, for support organizations.
- Supporting more knowledge sharing platforms/forums and assisting in the creation of awareness to scale up the reach of enterprises both at the institutional and consumer level.
- Networking and sharing of best practices with cross-border industry associations – signing of MoUs amongst regional renewable energy associations to share capacities and best practices.
- Setting up of a regional industry association in East Africa.
- Developing new models for financial innovation, such as exploring blended capital funds, tapping into corporate social responsibility funds, and setting up crowd funding platforms.
It was a fantastic experience to be part of an initiative like this. The language of entrepreneurship is universal; people everywhere are coming up with amazing entrepreneurial innovations, despite resource constraints. And incubators are a beacon to these endeavors, everywhere. If anything, I got to understand how Africa is poised to be the next powerhouse of entrepreneurial innovation. Incubators like the CIC in Kenya and the Unreasonable Institute are doing some pretty amazing stuff to support entrepreneurs. I was particularly impressed by CIC’s proof-of-concept grant funding programme – what an excellent way to help aspiring entrepreneurs build MVPs or prototypes of their innovations/ideas!
On the other hand, it was humbling to note that CIIE’s own model is something that others are interested in learning more and emulating – particularly, our experience is being able to set up a dedicated cleantech-focused fund (Infuse Ventures), and how the incubator is helping provide a seed investment pipeline to the fund. I also realized that there can be no ‘model’ model for business incubators – no ‘one-size-fits-all’ design. But there are lots that incubators can learn from each other; what worked and what didn’t and why they didn’t. For this reason, it is important to share experiences, no matter how trivial. Because, it’s these trivial things that make differences to others.
– Mohsin Bin Latheef (Manager – Cleantech Ecosystem Development)