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Author Topic: Nigeria: No Alternative to Home-Grown Technologies - Experts  (Read 3851 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
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« on: March 30, 2012, 07:45:41 am »


For Nigeria to become competitive in the global sphere, experts have harped on the need for researchers and industry to work hand-in-hand rather than in isolation. Government, individuals, corporations etc., must fund research which is the engine room of development.
According to a report in stockriters.com, in 2011, "the US was by far the number one on Research & Development (R&D) spending as it spent a staggering $405.3bn, followed by China with $153.7bn."
Other top spenders in 2011 are: Israel - $9.4bn or 4.2% of its GDP; Japan - $144.1bn or 3.3% of its GDP; Sweden -$11.9bn, or 3.3% of its GDP; Finland - $6.3bn or 3.1% of its GDP; South Korea - $44.8bn or 3.0% of its GDP, South Africa spent $3.7bn or 0.7% of its GDP. Unfortunately, Nigeria was not featured because she spent less than $100m on R&D.
In a chat with Vanguard Learning, the Director-General, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Dr. Umar Buba Bindir, said "most researchers in Nigeria simply do what interests them without respect to the needs of industries.

Educational facilities
For any country that wants to be modern, maintain good health for its people, good educational facilities, and ultimately industrialise, I'm sorry to say, there is no cutting corners to acquiring and promoting internal technology and Nigeria is not different."

Need for synergy between research and industry
"Nearly 100 per cent of technology deployed in the oil & gas, power, ICT, energy, health, financial and communications sectors in Nigeria, are imported. It is a clear indication that our own technology evolution/acquisition system is not responding to the needs of the Nigerian industry. We can clearly see the gap between Nigerian industries and Nigerian universities/research institutes."
The NOTAP D-G blamed the problem on the tendency of researchers to work in isolation. "In Nigeria, we have really perfected the art of working in silence. We like working in islands; 'this is my agency, I don't want to partner with him,' and then because of this individuality of institutions, you start having administrator and institutional rivalries.
"We do not harmonise; we do not come together to be stronger, something that we see other countries making progress do, we don't."
For Mr. Ribi Adeshokan, the CEO, GRC Motorsport, a UK-based motor racing team, not only should researchers and industry work together, but the consumer has a role to play too.
Citing the example of what obtains in the motor racing industry, he said "The Audi R8 LMS which Team Nigeria uses, is a limited edition car, maybe only about 10 produced in a year and part of what we've been doing is assisting them to develop the cars because all the feedback they get from the field, they use for car development so it's not just racing as a sport, it's technology advancement as well."
Also speaking on the issue, Dr. Henry Boyo, Senior Lecturer and Head of Hardware Development Laboratory, Dept. of Physics, University of Lagos, said "There is obviously a big discontinuity between researchers and the industries because many times, there is no relationship between the industrial needs and the research topics carried out in research institutes and universities.
Most times, there are no guidelines in selecting project topics in the universities especially in areas of specialisation, to solve real problems of the industries."

Mr Francis Umeoguaju, a master's degree student of biochemistry at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, noted that "most of the undergraduate projects given to students are not geared towards solving pertinent problems. They are more geared towards making publications that have little or no economic importance. Unless something serious and urgent is done, it may worsen as time goes by."
Dr. Bindir called for the establishment of core research institutes in Nigeria saying: "A research and development institution is a core institution that has a large volume of PhD holders, core professors, laboratories that are current, workshops that are up-to-date, publishing at the highest level, patenting and getting royalties.
"This is what I call a research institute. Everybody cries about power in Nigeria, if we don't have power, we will not move forward. Nigeria does not have one single core research institute on power - soft or hardware - so how do you get power?" he queried.

Way Forward:
Australia is playing in the big league today primarily due to the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) whose mandate is to 'undertake scientific research into practically all aspects of human activity and its interaction with natural and built environments.
This includes our air and water; our diverse landscapes; oceans and climate; agriculture; energy; health; space technologies and exploration; manufacturing; materials science; minerals exploration and processing; information and communication technologies and more. We apply our knowledge to create jobs, national wealth, a healthy environment and improved living standards for all Australians.'
Said Bindir: "NOTAP believes that the Federal Government MUST establish a research fund, budgeting about N5b - N6b yearly for research purposes irrespective of where it is happening and we must do it very quickly."
"I strongly believe that there are genuine Nigerian researchers out there, motivated by passion to contribute meaningfully to current existing knowledge in their fields. These scientists need to be motivated by Government. Making discovery is not easy in a financially depleted system like ours. It takes triple the time it would have normally taken since the researcher would have to go back and use outdated technologies which is cheaper and so on," added Umeoguaju.
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