From Concept to Reality: Operationalizing the Makerere University Innovation Pod

March 27, 2024

UN General Assembly President H.E. Dennis Francis examines the CNC Plasma Machine within the CNC Workshop of the Makerere University Innovation Pod (unipod)

The Makerere University Innovation Pod (unipod) is one of thirteen unipods to be established across the continent under UNDP’s timbuktoo initiative, a new development model that aims to transform Africa’s public universities into centres of innovation. A multidisciplinary space, development of the unipod required that it would not be attached to one particular college or school within Makerere University, ensuring all students can access the space irrespective of their area of their area of expertise.

The UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab team had confirmed from previous practice that innovations spaces established in individual colleges had only attracted student participation from that particular college, limiting interaction with other disciplines. Therefore, the unipod was designed purposefully to bring innovators from different disciplines to the same space to encourage collaboration. For example, innovators in science disciplines may not have expertise in arts disciplines and yet their innovative solution may require certain skills like communication and design to enhance market reach. Therefore, the collaboration space within the unipod is critical to encourage such cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing. Located on the ground floor of Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility at Makerere University, the unipod also offers an inclusive and accessible space for all students and youth from outside the university to collaborate on innovative products and solutions. 

Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines H.E. Ralph Everard Gonsalves explores Virtual Reality technology in the Multimedia Space of the Makerere University Innovation Pod (unipod)

Innovation Pod Equipment

With technical guidance from UNDP, Makerere University and Gearbox Pan African Network, over 100 different types of equipment were procured for the the Makerere University Innovation Pod, with equipment specifications being critical to inform the acquisition of the most suitable tools to optimize use of the unipod space.

Each technical space within the unipod has been equipped with specialized equipment based on its purpose. For example, the Computer Aided Design (CAD) rooms have technical design computers, the Creatives Lab has multimedia equipment like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) sets, the Creative Studio has audio production, photography and videography equipment, the Textiles Studio is equipped with sewing machines, embroidery machines and a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) fabric cutter., the Electronics Studio has become a designated space for creating Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), and the Makers' Space is equipped with various machinery including 3D Printers and soldering machines. Across the unipod, spaces have also been equipped with running water, internet access, and electricity phases suitable for the respective equipment being used.

Engineering students utilize the Electronic Vehicle Training Kit in the Makers’ Space of the Makerere University Innovation Pod (unipod)


Given the magnitude of equipment installed throughout the unipod, the UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab team used a mapping process to identify key university staff and onboarded Gearbox Pan African Network to support installation of a variety of equipment, predominantly for the electronics workshop and CNC workshop.

Suffice to say, the Accelerator Lab did not forgo the opportunity to involve university students in this process. Alongside students, staff and Gearbox engineers, all hands were on deck. During installation, all stakeholders were become acquainted with the equipment within each section of the unipod, with students becoming increasingly curious and excited as they had the opportunity to use the very equipment they had been learning about in class. It was fulfilling for the Accelerator Lab team to see the capacity of students growing, with knowledge transfer between the Accelerator Lab team, university staff, Gearbox engineers and students creating a very positive outcome of the installation process.

Students utilize the recording studio at the Makerere University Innovation Pod (unipod)

The Accelerator Lab team also paid special attention to the ongoing maintenance of the unipod and its variety of equipment. With security of the equipment and students being paramount, installation was arrange for a fire alarm system, security cameras and biometric doors. Meanwhile, an inventory of equipment is being maintained to ensure the usage of each tool is tracked and accounted for. 

We hope that this innovative establishment will be a key conduit in addressing the major bottlenecks that have so far stifled the emergence of new enterprises from within Uganda's innovation ecosystem. The team will now continue to nurture this unipod and the burgeoning enterprises within, driven by the objective to ensure no one is left behing in Uganda's pursuit of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Watch this space as we continue to nurture Uganda's innovation ecosystem. For more information, you can hear directly from students utilizing the unipod in this short video.


By Hadijah Nabbale, Head of Solutions Mapping; Nathan Tumuhamye, Head of Exploration; and Berna Mugema, Head of Experimentation.