The Minister in charge of Federal Ministry Of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, has emphasized the need to prioritize research, Science and Innovation in the country to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.
Onu explained that research and innovation are growth determinants, which must work together for sustainable growth and development.
The Minister made the disclosure, in Abuja, at the opening ceremony of the Experts’ Forum on Science, Technology And Innovation for National Assembly members and other key stakeholders organized by National Centre For Technology Management (NACETEM).
According to the Minister, innovation can be commercialised by both existing firms as well as new ones, lamenting that in Nigeria, only a small proportion of entrepreneurial start-ups are engaged in radical innovation.
He further explained that in this era of rapidly changing technology and shortening product life-cycles, a country’s ability to develop and successfully commercialise innovations has become a key competitive strength.
“With research and innovation, a country can gain competitive advantage by sensing the needs in one country, responding with capabilities located in another and diffusing the resulting innovation to market around the world.
“Globally, scientific and technological breakthroughs are mainly achieved through Research and Development, consequently leading to innovation and sustainable industrial and economic development.
“The challenges of sustainable development and governance faced by Nigeria call for strategic approaches to research and innovation for diversification of the nation’s economy. It is pertinent to emphasise that, any nation that wants to diversify economically must first of all put science, technology and innovation on the front burner of its developmental agenda through efficient buy-in from the policy makers and users of the research outputs.
“This forum is structured to highlight the significance of oversight functions of the policymakers and familiarise them more on the vital role that research institutes such as NACETEM can play in the commercialisation of publicly funded research projects. Consequent upon this, this forum is organised to foster synergy among the relevant stakeholders and actors in STI management system to transform research results from our research institutions for national growth and development.
“Research and innovation are cross cutting and can play a vital role in enhancing the status of many sectors/subsectors of the economy ranging from Education, Health, Agriculture, Environment, Governance, Energy, Defence, Commerce, Tourism, Crowd Control, among others.
“I urge you to use the platform provided by this forum to explore strategies of how research and innovation can be efficiently deployed to stimulate, diversify and transform economic development of Nigeria. Emphasis should centre on strengthening the synergies between the policy makers (members of the National Assembly) and NACETEM. This is a good opportunity to get more acquainted with the mandates, needs, achievement and challenges of the Agency in order to foster a sense of partnership.
In his welcome address, Engr. Prof. Okechukwu Ukwuoma, Director-general/Chief Executive Officer of NACETEM, emphasized the Importance of seminar for lawmakers and bureaucrats.
He said Technology and innovation for national sustainable development is a proof of the seriousness attached to this forum aptly tagged ‘Experts’ Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation’.
Ukwuoma said: “Without doubt, with our coming together, we have shown clearly that there is hope for PROJECT NIGERIA and the nation, sooner than later, it will take its rightful place amidst the comity of nations. To this end, I warmly welcome you to this forum.
“This forum is designed primarily to bring together relevant stakeholders in STI community with a view to having robust discussions on issues such as ‘Roles of Science, Technology and Innovation in Wealth Creation and Sustainable Development’, ‘Planning, Programming and Budgeting for STI’, ‘National Innovation System and the Future of Jobs for Youths in Nigeria’, among others.
“This forum, the Agency believes, will help deepen the knowledge of law makers, policy makers and other stakeholders on STI oversight functions, expose legislators and other key stakeholders to the roles of STI in addressing national security challenges as well as showcase the pivotal significance of Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators in budgeting and national planning.
“At a crucial period such as this when the Diversification Agenda and National Economic Sustainability Plan of the current administration are geared towards repositioning Nigeria to bounce back stronger from the ravaging impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and move our economy from almost wholly resource-based to knowledge and innovation driven towards reclaiming the nation’s pride of place among the comity of nations and realising the great hopes and aspirations of our founding fathers at independence, there is no better veritable tool to turn to than science, technology and innovation.
“This thus makes this forum much more critical as the deployment of science, technology and innovation (STI) for short-term, medium-term and long-term benefits of Nigeria and the need to robustly fund STI will be its focus.
Honourable (Sir) Haastrup Adewale Olatunji, Chairman, Governing Board of NACETEM , said the workshop is aimed at deepening their understanding about the critical significance of science, technology and innovation in sustainable national development.
“This forum could not have come at a better time than now as it will further help in consolidating the gains of democracy under this administration and set the tone for more laudable achievements in the future.
“Developed nations of the world have used STI to a great advantage and it is evident in their giant strides in all facets of life. Nigeria, as a rapidly developing economy, can catch up and possibly leapfrog them if we can as well deploy science, technology and innovation well. To do this however, there is need to have a good grasp of how it is done and do it very well.
“In doing it well we need to adequately fund research and development projects in this country. The research output of many countries is significantly affected by the amount of money dedicated to research and development (R&D).
“Though greater investment does not always guarantee excellence, research shows that there is a strong correlation between the level of research excellence a country attains and the amount of money it dedicates to research and development. The ‘critical mass’ of overall R&D expenditure needed to achieve research excellence in any country is most often set as above 1.5% of GDP. Notwithstanding recent efforts and promises to change the situation, Africa’s participation in global knowledge generation remains negligible compared with the rest of the world.
“Figures from the World Bank show that Africa produces below 1% of global scientific knowledge, despite being inhabited by 16% of the global population. This trajectory has to change and conscious efforts must be made towards achieving this.
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“The need for urgent intervention is further reinforced with the 2019 data of UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics (UIS) which put funding of R&D in Africa at 0.42% of the continent’s GDP, a far cry from the global average of 1.7% and the lowest in the world. It needs to be stressed here that despite the wider rhetoric about improving the continent’s capacity and contribution, only a limited number of African countries have demonstrated improved investment in research and development.
“At continental level, for instance, a decision was made by the African Union’s Executive Council in 2006 to establish a target for all member states of 1% of GDP investment in R&D in order to improve innovation, productivity and economic growth.
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