SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Promoting relevant science, technology and innovation in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda

The need to invest in Science Technology and Innovation (STI) capability in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) has long been recognised, but there has been limited action and investigation into how to do this and what works in LMIC contexts.

A new project seeks to address this major paradox in international development practice, policy and investment, through developing an understanding of knowledge systems and what works to promote science, technology and innovation in three African countries: Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. A knowledge system is defined as networks of ‘agents, practices and institutions that organize the production, transfer and use of knowledge’ (Cornel, 2013). [1]

The project involves a number of SPRU faculty including: Prof Fiona Marshall, Dr Tommaso Ciarli, Dr Hugo Confraria and Dr Jonathan Dolley. They are working alongside academics from a number of partner organisations (see below).


The research will adopt a number of methods but will be underpinned throughout by extensive stakeholder engagement and country-specific political and economic analysis. Following an initial three-month scoping exercise to refine and finalise the methodological approach the programme will undertake a number of research activities including:

  • a robust review of existing evidence and development of the theoretical approach;
  • the mapping and description of each of the three countries’ knowledge systems;
  • a political economy analysis;
  • the development of economic investment cases for investing in STI in each country and the identification of practical actions to strengthen the knowledge economy. 

Impact and Outreach

The research will deliver a number of outputs to help promote STI in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda:

  1. A knowledge system theory of change for each country will provide essential elements or interactions to drive innovation and research.
  2. A set of recommended interventions and areas of investment for knowledge system development and Science and Technology Investment likely to have the greatest return of investment in the context. This will be prepared as a peer review publication.
  3. An options report of knowledge system interventions backed by analysis, evidence and stakeholder review and co-development.
  4. A number of engagement activities, led by ACTS, with the aim of enhancing uptake and implementation of the relevant research findings. These will include: workshops with stakeholders to disseminate and validate findings; utilizing communication channels such as social media and policy briefs to disseminate research evidence; and using capacity-building networks to enhance the capacity of policy makers and young researchers to take up ideas generated from the study.


Principal Investigator Dr Andy Frost, Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich

Co-Principal Investigators

 Additional Team Members


[1] Cornell, S., Berkhout, F., Tuinstra, W., Tabra, J.D., Jager, J., Chabay, I., de Wit, B., Langlais, R., Mills, D., Moll, P., Otto, I.M., Petersen, A., Pohl, C. and van Kerkhoff, L. (2013) Opening up knowledge systems for better responses to global environmental change. Environmental Science and Policy 28 (April 2013) 60-70