The Kectil Program: A Spotlight on Young Inventors in Developing Countries


A new non-profit venture aims to help bright young people in developing countries benefit from the wisdom of some leading innovators. Founder Sherry Knowles, an intellectual property attorney with 25 years of experience in global corporate and private practice, explains how.


When it comes to innovation and leadership, Kendall Square in Boston, USA, is among the most successful areas in the world. According to the Kendall Square Association, whose motto is “The Future Lives Here,” this small neighborhood in Cambridge houses companies in over 30 industry sectors. These include 9 of the top 10 global biopharmaceutical companies (and 13 of the top 20) as well as leading information technology and social media companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter. It is also home to two the world’s most prestigious universities, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bringing contrasting worlds together

The Kendall Square innovation centers are abuzz, teeming with brainstorm-cluttered whiteboards, spontaneous high-level conversations and introductions, crowded conference rooms, mentors, leaders, venture capital specialists, business development experts, lawyers, consultants and, yes, trainees quickly absorbing the environment. It is hard to imagine a better place for expedited learning and success.

Contrast Kendall Square with the environment available to young people in developing countries like Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal and South Africa, and in regions such as Central Asia and the Middle East. The talented young people in these countries often have to go it alone, with no role models to inspire and direct them, and little or no funding or training. How, then, can they begin to plan their futures? How do they get out of the box? How many simply give up or turn to less constructive endeavors?

Throughout my career as an intellectual property (IP) attorney, I have travelled to many countries, including developing countries, to handle IP issues and speak about international IP policy. This has enabled me to observe first-hand the challenges confronting young people living in remote and disadvantaged areas. I have also had the good fortune to represent or work with some of the brightest and best minds in innovation. I wanted to find a way for these innovators to support the many talented young people living in developing countries.

That is why our Malmar-Knowles Family Foundation set about creating and recently launched a transformational initiative to support talented young people in developing and least developed countries. Known as the Kectil (Knowles Educational and Charitable Trust for International Leadership) Program, the initiative seeks to identify...

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