The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) have launched the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA), aiming to support Africans’ efforts to develop new products, increase efficiency and drive cost-savings.

Researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to propose projects that unlock new African potential under one of five categories which include: agriculture and agribusiness; ICT applications; health and wellbeing; environment, energy and water; and manufacturing and services industries.

“The IPA team believes that best way to build Africa’s capacity is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship,” says AIF chairman Walter Fust.  “This prize encourages Africans to develop creative ways to overcome everyday challenges.”

Only innovations by Africans and for Africans are eligible to enter. Africans in the diaspora can also apply if their innovations are of significance to Africa. The winning proposal will be awarded a cash prize of $100 000, with the two runners-up receiving $25 000 each.

The organisers expect the prize to promote among young African men and women the pursuit of science, technology and engineering careers and business applications.

The aims are to:

* Mobilise leaders from all sectors to fuel African innovation;

* Promote innovation across Africa in key sectors of interest through the competition;

* Promote science, technology and engineering as rewarding, exciting and noble career options among the youth in Africa by profiling success applicants; and

* Encourage entrepreneurs, innovators, funding bodies and business development service providers to exchange ideas and explore innovative business opportunities.

In pursuing those aims, the IPA expects the following outcomes:

* Increased commercialization of research and development (R&D) outputs in Africa;

* Increased funding of start-ups, adoption of new and emerging technologies and accelerated growth of an innovative and dynamic private sector; and

* Increased economic activity and African led development that results in lasting impact.

The registration deadline for the 2013 prize has been set for 31 October 2012 with no possibility for extensions.