Technology Transfer & Development

The technology needs of developing countries like Uganda can, in many instances, be addressed by acquiring technologies from developed countries and adapting them for local application. The institute is currently involved in several collaborative technology transfer projects with internationally renowned research organizations in industrially developed countries such as Malaysia and China. These projects are implemented under the stewardship of TDC

It is noteworthy that technology transfer typically results in the movement of both technology and organizational know-how among the collaborating institutions which enhances the recipient’s expertise thereby strengthening their capabilities.

The institute’s technology transfer priorities are underpinned by the following criteria:
  • Ease of use
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Potential for exploitation of abundantly available natural resources
  • Scope for technical assistance and cooperation
  • Applicability in context of local skills and expertise 

The technologies transferred through TDC thus far include:

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Technology

Modern electrical systems are based on the use of electronic components and circuits with the capability to perform programmable logic operations. Printed Circuit Board (PCB) technology enables high-precision, high-volume production of reliable electronic circuits for a wide range of products.

The technology renders computer software-designed circuit pathways onto boards (single or double-sided) to produce templates which are then transformed into functional circuits by the insertion of electrical and electronic components.

The institute’s incentive to acquire PCB production technology resides in the fact that it is an essential prerequisite to the development of Uganda’s electronics industry. It is important to note that all electronic products (from calculators to computers) are currently imported and, yet some of these could locally be manufactured affordably. Accordingly, the introduction of PCB technology is expected to lay the foundation for a local electronics industry leading to import substitution.

The acquired technology has so far been used by one of the institute’s incubatees, E-TECH Ltd for the production of electronic teaching equipment for schools. It is noteworthy that the company has since realised a step change in production capacity and product quality at much reduced production costs. 

Bamboo Processing Technology

Uganda is endowed with abundant Bamboo resources particularly in the mountain forest regions of Elgon to the East; the Rwenzori’s to the west; and Echuya, Bwindi and Mgahinga to the South West of the country. There are also other small pockets of bamboo scattered in other parts of the country including: Bbajo, Mukono district; and Metu in Moyo district.

Thus far, Bamboo utilisation has been limited to rudimentary applications such as the construction of rural housing, food, crafts and firewood by individual households.

Having realised the potential to produce a range of high value bamboo products (mats, textiles, carpets, floor boards, curtains, car seat covers, decorative ornaments etc) the institute in collaboration with the China Bamboo Research Centre (CBRC), has through TDC, trained staff in all aspects of bamboo value addition and acquired processing technology for the production of tooth picks. In the future, this project will extend to the production of a broader range of products through acquisition and retrofitting of additional machinery to the existing line.

An offsite processing facility has been established closer to the source of the raw material under the supervision of TDC’s Civil Works Division in Kabale using a set of replicated bamboo machinery. 

Hand-Made Paper Technology

The impetus for UIRI to scale-up its efforts on paper production technology transfer stems from a Presidential Directive to the Executive Director, Professor Charles Kwesiga to look into the prospects of spearheading the drive to develop affordable bio-degradable paper packaging materials. This directive was made prior to the budget speech of 14th June 2007 following the Government policy to ban the use of non-biodegradable colored low density polyethylene bags of 30 microns or less, commonly known as Kaveera.

Prior to this, TDC was actively engaged in an initiative to develop and implement a technology for the production of hand-made paper using natural fibres such as: banana stems; sisal; cotton linter; papyrus; bagasse; pineapple leaves; recycled paper; and cotton rugs.

This work has resulted in the fabrication of a commercially viable hand-made paper production prototype, comprising: pulping; calendaring; and pressing machines. The prototype production line has so far yielded acceptable quality paper and enriched the technical skills and know-how of the production process team. A variety of products have been produced in conjunction with this technology. These include: shopping bags; gift bags; envelopes; invitation cards; calendars; dairies; notebooks; file covers; and art paper.

TDC’s Engineering Division has already completed fabrication of an improved pulping machine intended for commercial application.

Small-Scale Natural Soap Processing

Soap is a basic necessity whose demand is currently outpacing production. The evidence shows that some elements in our community still use traditional leaves for sanitation during washing. In order to address this, the institute has undertaken a project on the promotion and innovation of natural soap making processes. The intention is to build this technological capability within communities. The products will still have the traditional essence of natural soaps but will be manufactured using modern technology and methods.

It is interesting to note that, most of the soaps sold in grocery stores are detrimental to skin due to poor formulation and pH balancing. The natural soaps that will be produced will be quality and healthy products.

The design capacity for the recently fabricated natural soap production prototype machine is ca. 50 Kg per 3 hour production batch.

The principle aim of the project is to work with communities and build capacity for affordable local soap production. The expected project impacts include: exploitation of locally available raw materials; and increased household incomes.

Cow Horn Utilisation

Cow horn is an abundantly available and unique raw material in Uganda and yet, it remains largely unutilised. The list of potential products that can be derived from cow horns is almost endless. Example of products derived from this versatile material include: a wide range of crafts and ornaments; buttons; table wear; and various accessories. Such high value products have so far, not locally been produced in significant commercial quantities.

It is in light of this observation that the institute has embarked on the cow horn value addition project under the stewardship of the Engineering Division’s Wood Technology unit. The team has acquired the skills and basic equipment required for the conditioning and processing of cow horn into various products including: key holders; ear rings; bangles; and other decorative accessories and ornaments. This initial product development effort will soon be followed by the purchase of additional equipment necessary to scale-up production and establish the capacity to fabricate high-precision items such as buttons and shoe soles.

Hatchery Design and Construction

Approximately 20 % of protein intake in developing countries is attributed to poultry products. In spite of this, there are hardly any coordinated efforts to improve the productivity of indigenous poultry. This is mainly due to the many challenges along the production value chain which remain unaddressed. Among these, is the technological capacity to enhance chick production through the use of modern hatcheries.

Under the auspices of TDC, the institute has undertaken a project to design, construct and test a semi-automated hatchery. The capacity of the prototype currently being tested is such that it is ideal for use at household chicken farmer level. The unit is designed to incubate batches of 500 – 600 eggs and has the potential to contribute considerably to rural poultry farming, particularly since its power requirements are modest and it can be operated by a small generator. The design of the prototype is also relatively simple and uses locally available materials. It does not require skilled operation.

Silk Processing Project

Silk is a natural protein fiber which is obtained from cocoons formed by silkworm larvae feeding on Mulberry trees. Silk filaments are continuous threads of great strength and, for textile production purposes, several filaments are combined with a slight twist into one strand in a process known as “reeling.” The reeled silk thread can either be used for the production of fine silk fabrics (by weaving, for example) or “re-reeled” to produce thicker thread for stronger fabrics.

In collaboration with the National Sericulture Center (NSC) and with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), TDC has undertaken a value addition project for the fabrication of silk reeling and re-reeling machines. This work is being carried out by the Engineering Division’s Wood Technology unit which has already fabricated 5 machines for an NSC farmer training project in Bushenyi District. Another 20 reeling and 5 re-reeling machines are under construction for the second phase of the project.

The project is already enabling silkworm farmers add value to their cocoons by producing yarns of silk thread for sale to textile factories. A more recent area of research is the use of silk yarn for weaving various products (see later).

Weaving Technology Project

Weaving is the textile art in which two distinct sets of yarn or thread (warping and filling) are interlaced with each other to form a fabric or cloth. This work is carried out with loom machines which are either manual or automated. The pattern of the fabric produced depends on the setting of the loom and the expertise of the weaving technician.

This project is also being implemented by TDC’s Wood Technology unit which has designed, fabricated and tested a range of wooden looms. These units have already been used to develop some woven products including scarves and shawls fashioned in a variety of colour combinations.

The next stage is to scale-up and disseminate the handloom technology and know-how developed to communities for commercial exploitation, most likely using a cottage industry model of the kind that has already registered success in countries like Ghana.

Multi-Nutrient Animal Feeds Project

The institute in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Organisation’s (NARO) subsidiary agency, the National Livestock Resources Research Institute’s (NaLIRRI), has designed, developed and tested 4 multi-nutrient animal feed production machines.

The project objective is to provide affordable equipment for the production of high nutrient content animal feeds for local farmers in order to improve the productivity of livestock. Of particular interest is increasing milk quality and yield.

The prototypes developed so far include: mixers (manual and motorised) for blending constituent feed formulation ingredients; a molding machine for pressing blended material into blocks; and a drying unit for moisture content control.

The prototypes are currently being tested by NaLIRRI for product development with a special focus on the use of locally available ingredients such as sugarcane molasses; dairy lick; cotton seed cake; maize bran; foliage; and cassava flour as a source of starch.

The nutritional value of the animal feed products under development will be tested by the institute’s analytical laboratories and the resulting information will be used to optimise feed formulations. The institute will also take part in monitoring the impact of the developed feeds on livestock quality.