Research into Business
The investment programme Research into Business was created as part of a broader UK aid intervention to support the transition of innovative ideas from research into successful commercial enterprises. It financed existing enterprises and organisations to enable them to bring to market products that directly impact smallholder farmers, including veterinary products and improved genetics and virus resilience through tissue culture and improved seed. Other technologies include the development of the first black soldier fly production facility at scale and low cost, high speed soil testing for smallholders. In line with the highly innovative nature of the programme, more companies than normal were not sustained, with half no longer in operation by 2021. However, the investments led to truly game changing interventions in rose production, insect protein, thermotolerant poultry vaccines and farmer information, many of which have since been replicated across the continent. The programme generated $231m of development impact from a capital investment of $11m in 16 companies.
More than 60% of the impact for the window as a whole was generated by Mediae through their hugely popular Swahili language TV show Shamba Shape Up. This created a soap opera that was used to teach viewers about agriculture and farming practices. It was partially financed by commercial tie-ins with input and service providers with viewers registering for access to a help desk. Starting in Kenya, the programme was expanded to Uganda and Tanzania with the business model copied by other edutainment providers.