Home NewsNational Qualcomm Completes First Year Of Africa Innovation Platform, Announces Additional Benefits

Qualcomm Completes First Year Of Africa Innovation Platform, Announces Additional Benefits

by Edmund Kagire
2:24 pm

Elizabeth Migwalla, Qualcomm VP and Head of Government Affairs (MEA) and Sudeepto Roy, Qualcomm VP in hcarVice President, Engineering, hailed the participating startups

African startups are set to benefit more from  tech giants Qualcomm ‘Make in Africa’ mentorship program, which is part of the Qualcomm Africa Innovation Platform, which was launched in December 2022, which has a mission to stimulate tech innovations on the continent.

Qualcomm Incorporated on December 11 announced the completion of the first year of the Africa Innovation Platform, a suite of mentorship, education, and training programs created to support the development of Africa’s emerging technology ecosystem.

The platform has provided resources and support for local universities, ten small-to-medium sized startups, and grant participants.

The program exposed the selected groups to Qualcomm Technologies Inc.’s engineers and its state-of-the-art capabilities suite for mobile platforms and technologies, including 4G, 5G, IoT, AI, and machine learning. Qualcomm also announced several additional benefits to the Innovation Platform for this year’s participants.

These include the Social Impact Funds from the Qualcomm Wireless Reach Initiative to help QMIA startups scale, patent filing incentive fund, to help QMIA startups protect their inventions through patenting as well as QMIA 2024 program launch for mentoring 10 deep-tech startups in Africa, among other new additions.

Speaking during a virtual press conference to announce the outcome of the first cohort, Elizabeth Migwalla, Vice President and Head of Government Affairs (Middle East and Africa), Qualcomm International, Inc., said that the Qualcomm “Make in Africa” first year was defined by success.

“We believe that African startups are best placed to identify unique services or innovations that address specific African issues and needs. In building this program, we also had a clear goal to seek out women entrepreneurs and encourage them to apply,”

Migwalla said that that several of the startups that participants featured women in prominent leadership roles who were privileged to witness the growth of the entrepreneurs over the seven months mentorship period.

“They have worked tirelessly through hundreds of hours of masterclasses, and specialized clinics on everything from business development to branding Antarctic, technology trainings, covering topics, such as 5G extended reality and machine learning,” adding that the participating startups will drive the innovation agenda on the continent and create new prospects for up and coming entrepreneurs.

During 2023, Qualcomm’s Africa Innovation Platform reached a number of milestones, including becoming the first initiative of its kind in Africa.

The equity-free mentorship program identified promising early-stage startups keen on applying advanced connectivity and processing technologies to innovative end-to-end systems solutions, including hardware, and provided these companies with business coaching, access to engineering consultation for product development, and guidance on protecting intellectual property.

The inaugural cohort included SLS Energy, a Rwandan startup which came up with innovative solutions to address the battery waste and power supply quality problems, joining other startups from across the continent in the Qualcomm continental incubation program.

SLS Energy, a Rwanda startup focusing on recycling lead-cell batteries was among the top 10 African startup companies which benefited from a 7-month equity-free mentorship program by tech giants Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Other participating companies and their technology solutions included; Ecorich Solutions engaged in patented organic composting in Kenya, Fixbot, a startup from Nigeria involved in vehicle diagnostics and inspection via OBD dongle, Karaa from Uganda, in e-Bike tracking, charging, retrofit, and rentals, as well as Maotronics Systems Limited, an IOT-enabled precision agriculture startup from Nigeria.

Others included Microfuse, also from Uganda, engaged in affordable plugin computers for the education sector, Neural Labs Africa Ltd, from Kenya and Senegal, whose innovations focus on deep learning and computer vision for healthcare diagnosis in the respective countries.

Two more Nigerian startups, OneTouch Diagnostics, a diabetes patch and monitoring system, and QuadLoop, which is leveraging e-waste for solar e-Lanterns and battery storage,  along with SolarTaxi, an electric vehicle (EV) taxi and fleet management system built in Ghana, were among the finalists.

Sudeepto Roy, Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Incorporated and the lead for regional strategy and ecosystem programs for Qualcomm’s technology licensing group, said the program was a rigorous one and involved selecting the participating startups from hundreds of applications. Over 500 applications were received.

“A year ago, we had the pleasure of launching, the Qualcomm Africa Innovation platform, which is comprised of four distinct programs that help build a pipeline of innovation talent from university through industry, including startups,”

“The Qualcomm Make in Africa startup mentorship program or QMI is the first initiative of its kind in Africa. This equity free mentorship program, identifies promising, early-stage deep technology startups that use connectivity computing and artificial intelligence, as part of their operating system software,” he said.

Roy said more than 500 applicants from 34 African countries, applied for the QMIA and 24 for were shortlisted for a rigorous evaluation by industry experts before selecting the final 10 for mentorship.

“These startups are found incredible solutions for problems they see in their countries and communities. The market for the innovation is global and we are proud to play a small part in the global journey,” Roy said.

Qualcomm also runs the Qualcomm Africa University Relations Program, which seeks to bolster the research and educational capabilities of select African universities, research labs, and students by enhancing engineering curriculum and providing training on technologies such as Extended Reality, Robotics and AI/ML using Qualcomm platforms and developer kits.

It also operates the Qualcomm Academy, the education and training arm which was expanded the 5G University Training Program to students at select African universities and organizations, to received 5G training and certification from industry-leading engineers.

Qualcomm will enhance the program with the Qualcomm Wireless Reach Social Impact Funds. Since 2007, Wireless Reach has invested in sustainable programs across Africa that demonstrate innovative uses of wireless technology to advance economic and social development.

Upon conclusion of the QMIA mentorship phase, Wireless Reach is providing funding to propel the 10 startups as they scale their societal and market impact. These startups are invited to submit proposals that demonstrate how their solutions are leveraging wireless technologies to address a pressing need in their communities.

One recipient will be awarded the primary grant to help scale and sustain their impact, while others will receive valuable stipends to continue fueling their growth.

Wireless Reach is also providing the startups with Qualcomm hardware and software kits for development and prototyping platforms. This will enable them to develop custom innovations and improved capabilities into their products while utilizing Qualcomm’s advanced technologies for connectivity, computing, and AI.

Through the Patent Filing Incentive, Qualcomm will offer startups financial reimbursement towards filing of a single utility (non-provisional and complete) patent application with a pre-approved patent office or patent union based in Africa.

This strategic investment will not only protect the startups’ intellectual property rights but also propel their market reach, positioning them as leaders in the African innovation landscape.

“With emerging technologies in 5G, AI, robotics, IoT, and multimedia, we are seeing a new era of invention,” said Alex Rogers, President, QTL & Global Affairs, Qualcomm Incorporated.

“Through initiatives like the Qualcomm Innovation Platform, we are enabling companies around the world to build on our foundational technologies and join us in finding solutions to the world’s biggest challenges,” Rogers added.

QMIA 2024 Launch

Applications for the 2024 Qualcomm Make in Africa startup mentorship program are now open. Details can be found on https://www.qualcomm.com/company/locations/africa/qualcomm-make-in-africa for Rwandan startups looking to apply.

Qualcomm International, Inc., is a multinational company incorporated in the U.S, which invents breakthrough technologies that transform how the world connects, computes and communicates, with the objective of enabling a world where everyone and everything can be intelligently connected.

They seek to advance connectivity, high-performance, low-power compute, on-device intelligence and more – to the next generation of connected smart devices across industries.

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of the engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of the products and services businesses, including the QCT semiconductor business.



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