Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro, says very soon researchers in Nigerian tertiary institutions will have no cause to be poor, even as he decries the low level of research in the nation’s tertiary schools. Uji Abdullahi Iliyasu reports how he is set to accomplish this lofty mission.
Last week, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) under the visionary leadership of Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro inaugurated an ad-hoc committee comprising of highly intellectual Nigerians who are making waves in their chosen fields in the Diaspora and their home counterparts to revitalise research in the nation’s higher institutions of learning as one of the cure mandates of TETFund.
The Executive Secretary, during the inauguration, stated that the key measurement parameters for Nigerian Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the anchor for Nigeria’s economic transformation blueprint, is dependent on Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), meaning that the advancement in SET is dependent on research and development.
Bogoro said innovative research and its consequent commercialisation is the driver that moves and nurtures the engine of modern economic growth, thus it is an important driver of poverty alleviation.
“Innovative research and its consequent commercialisation is the driver that moves and nurtures the engine of modern economic growth, thus it is an important driver of poverty alleviation.
“There is ample evidence to show that research and development propelled by higher education, more than anything else, has contributed to the rise and expansion of the world knowledge economy,” Bogoro said.
Commercialisation of Research and development
He further said that the power of commercialisation of research and development results has been recognised by both developed and developing economies and that the nature and demand of modern economy is the fundament stimulus for the university-industry relationships, and stressed that investment in research and development as well as human capital development is key to economic advancement of any nation.
In developed countries, he said, industries look up to universities as potential innovators in the development and commercialisation of products, which results in funding the cash starved universities and university researchers having access to most modern technology and management systems in industries.
He noted that higher education institutions are globally positioned to be the bridge between the productive society and knowledge growth.
Nigeria’s low research level
The TETFund boss is worried that the level of research in Nigeria is remarkably low.
“In spite of the fact that the role of research and development in national development, including leveraging the quality of research and academic programmes is well known, the level of research and development infrastructure and productivity in Nigeria remains unacceptably low, at 0.02%.”
He averred that in spite of the fact that research and development is central to a country’s development, in Nigeria, there is absence of a national platform for the regulation and strengthening of research and development.
“It is in this vein that TETFund, propelled by my vision, continues to advocate the establishment by law, of a national Research and Development Foundation that will ensure a coordinated national framework for the sustenance and implementation of researches. “Such a foundation, when established, shall promote an effective interface among universities, government and private sector, especially the industrial subsector of the economy.
“Since 2004, when I was appointed the Executive Secretary of TETFund, I was and still am, committed to lead TETFund in this vision by sensitising the whole country towards the need to strengthen research and development in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
“The passion is evidenced by the numerous papers I have presented across the country.”
Bogoro said that in his several submissions, he had emphasised the inadequacy of incentives for research and development and innovations in tertiary institutions in the country.
It is worthy of note that TETFund’s mandate include ensuring physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, procuring instructional material and equipment, research and publication, academic staff training and development. Bogoro therefore, said for long, they had been paying attention to physical infrastructure but now was time for innovative researches to make the physical structures meaningful.
He thus charged the committee members to provide strategic leadership that will lead to smooth implementation of TETFund Reasearch and Development mandate among staff by creating awareness and ensuring paradigm shift in the Fund.
The Research and development ad-hoc committee has Professor Placid Njoku, an erudite scholar and one of Africa’s most prominent intellectual and academics who is also the current president of Nigerian Institute of Animal Science as chairman; Professor Ibrahim Katampe, a professor of Chemistry and director for Innovative and Technology Incubation in the Center for Excellence in Emerging Technologies (CEET), Central State University, USA, as vice chairman, and Mr Temitope Toogun, head of human capital commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) as member.
All three have promised to take TETFund Research and Development assignment with all seriousness for the good of Nigeria.
Some prominent TETFund officers also serve on the committee as members. They include Director of Public Affairs, Jacob Alada; Alh. Idris A.O. Saidu; Barr. Ukim Ifiok, Joseph U. Udo and others.
Productive society and knowledge growth
Higher education institutions world over, are positioned to be the bridge between a productive society and knowledge growth. There has been a strong collaborative partnership among higher education institutions, government and the industry, otherwise referred to as “Triple Helix Model”, the confluence of which is a powerful one that drives the economy of nations.
With the needed global economy and the need for rapid advancement to alleviate socio-economic issues, there is need for national recalibration and re-sensitisation towards sustainable innovative research and development operations.
Interface between universities and private sectors
In spite of the fact that the role of research and development in national development, including leveraging the quality of research and academic programmes is well known, the level of research and development infrastructure and productivity in Nigeria (0.02%) remains unacceptably low. With the accelerated growth of new global economy and the urgent focus on the socio-economic imperatives, there is need for national recalibration and re-sensitisation of operations and policies targeting at a sustainable innovative research and development operations.
There are numerous national policies related to university industry partnerships in the country and the role for the university in the society, including the contribution to national development. Nothing clearly depicts the weakness in driving the research and development in Nigeria as the absence of national platform for its regulation and strengthening.
“It is in this vein that TETFund, propelled by my vision, continues to advocate the establishment by law, of a national R&D Foundation that will ensure coordinated national framework for the sustenance and promotion of R&D.
“Such a foundation, when established, shall promote an effective interface between universities, government and private sector, especially the industrial subsector of the economy.
“Since 2004, when I was appointed the Executive Secretary of TETFund, I was and still am, committed to lead TETFund in this vision by sensitising the whole country towards the need to strengthen R&D in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
“This passion is evidenced by the numerous papers I have presented across the country.”
The need for ad-hoc committee
The issue of institutional capacity is necessary to implement university-industry partnerships. There seems to be recognition not only from the higher education sector but also from the private sector as well that the initiative for partnership should come from university. Researchers at the university are advancing the frontiers of knowledge in diversified areas of emerging technologies.
Cognisant of the enormity of the responsibility of the department of Research and Development/Centres of Excellence (R&D/CE) and the reorientation of the psyche of the staff in the department and indeed of the generality of TETFund, it is imperative that a formal sensitisation and recalibration activities be structured fir the staff of the department as well as a good number of the staff of the Fund who may be assignable, at a future date, to the department or other staff who may associate with the department in the conduct of their own assignment.
It is of critical importance therefore, for TETFund to set up a mechanism and machinery that will facilitate systematic and scheduled internalisation of Research and Development paradigm shift. This will lead to the development of institutions into veritable hubs for experimentation and incubation of scientific and technological innovations urgently needed for national development and competitiveness. It is with this in mind that the ad hoc committee was inaugurated with the mandate to provide strategic leadership internally to the process of implementing TETFund Research and Development mandate among the staff of the Fund by creating awareness and sensitisation of R&D and innovation paradigm shift in the Fund, thus, developing administrative and technical capacity building framework for not only the TETFund R&D department but all staff capabilities.