US tech giant IBM has opened an innovation hub in Nairobi to match IT innovators with investors who will help develop the ideas commercially.
The hub, which is the third in Africa after Morocco and South Africa, will allow software developers to test their new applications, network with peers around the world and link innovations with businesses that need the technology.
The centre will also link techies with capital owners who will inject money into start-ups in exchange for equity.
This is part of IBMâ€™s strategy to generate at least a third of revenues from emerging markets by 2015 through supporting software development in the developing economies. The software will run on IBM systems, ultimately creating demand for its hardware.
â€œThe centre brings together the important components into an ecosystem to help develop successful IT ventures,â€ said Jim Corgel, IBM general manager in charge of independent software vendors (ISV), academic and developer relations. â€œIt moves research to where there are business opportunities.â€
The hub joins a global network of 40 other innovation centres around the world that act as business incubation centres by connecting techies to venture capitalists, businesses and tech scholars.
The New York-based firm has set up a unit that tracks, in real time, Nairobiâ€™s traffic flow via closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras as part of a strategy to build a smart city solution to monitor transport, public safety and utility services.
The data will be analysed and exploited for business purposes through building applications, managing and predicting traffic patterns, infrastructure planning and emergency response planning.
IBM said it will focus on building and funding applications in fields such as utilities, telco (mobile-based apps), public sector and banking.
The firm will use the IBM Venture Capital Group, which engages established venture capital firms to find new, complementary, and relevant apps that can be grown into businesses.
The venture arm does not give equity or seed funding, but connects developers to renown venture capital firms, private equity partners and portfolio companies for financial banking.
The setting up of the regional innovation hub comes barely nine months after IBM opened its sole African research lab in Nairobi in August last year.
The centre will work closely with the innovation hub to link applications with client needs.