It is worthy to note that the tri-angle of innovation around the world is held together by the cooperative endeavor of the Government, the Academic Community, and the Technology Industry. A deficiency or disconnect in any of these key drivers of innovation will definitely bring an imbalance in the innovation ecosystem. This makes the role of the academic community in driving innovation very critical
The world is waiting for Innovations out of Africa, the African Union and other relevant stakeholders are beginning to take several African innovation initiatives a bit seriously. Technology and Innovation is now like a major Sport with each country running their innovation Olympiad. Nigeria on the other hand has the potential to lead in this following her huge human and material resources.One key sector that has huge potentials for growth and competitiveness is the Education sector-the application and use of technology in Education, but these potentials remain untapped.
In a recent article titled Why Nigerian Universities cannot Drive Innovation in Nigeria, some of the enormous challenges facing the Nigerian universities were outlinedsuch as Poor funding of the Universities by government, brain drain, Infrastructural deficiency,skill and knowledge gap, poor ethical standards and different levels of malpractices.We all have come to agree that these problems have hindered technology innovation outof Nigerian universities for several years.
Despite these daunting challenges there are growing opportunities inherent in the Nigeria academic community as stated earlier which need to be properly harnessed to ensure the future and survivability of the country. This calls for urgent need to begin to think of solutions to these problems and finding out the way forward for our country with focus oninnovation.
Several approaches and projects have been undertaken by the government to foster innovation, some of them have not yielded any good result and has no justification or bases for their institution. It is time for a new method, it is time to critically look at what other nations like Israel and the US are doing in the area of technology and Innovation.
It is worthy to note that the tri-angle of innovation around the world is held together by the cooperative endeavor of the Government, the Academic Community, and the Technology Industry. A deficiency or disconnect in any of these key drivers of innovation will definitely bring an imbalance in the innovation ecosystem. This makes the role of the academic community in driving innovation very critical.The importance of the collaboration of the academy, the industry and government is crucial for creating a fostering entrepreneurial eco-system. The industry funding experience and networking; the academy human resources and R&D capabilities; and the government policy – all combined together creates an effective way of promoting and developing business, education and technology for a successful entrepreneurial eco-system. This type of collaboration is non-existent in Nigeria and that is a major problem hindering innovation here as many nations are maximizing their ivory towers by creating superb technology institutes and centres focused at grooming a generation of innovators for the future.
While many universities around the world are at the centre of innovations, leading the formation of thriving tech ecosystems, Nigerian universities are yet to realize how important their role is in driving innovation. It gives me great concern seeing how innovation ecosystems are driven by the intellectual prowess of the academics and the academia.For example,the contribution of Technion-Israel Institute of technology to the technological development of Israel and the world clearly shows how relevant the academic community is in leading innovation in a nation. The story of Israel’s transformation as a Technology giant cannot be complete without mentioning the contributions of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology which has graduated over 67,000 tech entrepreneurs and professionals that are adding great value to the Start-up Nation and the world at large.
As documented in the book Technion Nation, the story of how Technion Graduates are contributing to the development of Israel’s economy, the over 67,000 graduates, holding over 90,000 degrees, indeed became the foundation for Israel’s start-ups, basic research, applied technology, high-tech industry, global management expertise, export sector and economic growth. Specifically, the Technion’s aeronautical engineering department has spurred key breakthroughs for Israel’s defense. Its electrical engineering andComputer science departments have provided the talented graduates who drive Israel’s electronics and software industry, which generates $20billion of Israel’s $40 billion in annual exports. Its architecture and Civil Engineering departments built Israel’s roads and infrastructure. And three of Technion’s talented faculty have won Nobel Prizes in the past eight years. This is just the contribution of one university!.
Harvard University, MIT, Stanford, Geogiatech are a few of the higher education communities that have conquered their environment and are extending their tentacles to other countries and helping them develop innovation around research and development of innovative products and services.
One of the ideas that will help the Nigerian University to drive Technology and Innovation is to set up Technology Innovation Institutes and Centres in the Universities focused at driving Innovation and inventions. And then collaborating with some of the successful institutions mentioned above.
A Technology Entrepreneurship Centre in the Nigerian universitieswith the support of the Nigerian Government, the Technology Industry and the University community will help form a great synergy that will ensure the development of entrepreneurship in Nigeria and impact on the overall economy of the nation
Such centreswill serve as an incubation platform for young entrepreneurs who are undergraduates, graduates, researchers and the academic community. The center in its first year of establishment will support the building of at least 100 technology- focused businesses out of the university community in Nigeria. These businesses will focus on using science, Technology and Innovation to solve real problems in the society.
The tech centreswill provide business support services and the technology needed, to undergraduates, graduates, researchers and the entire academic community. This support will help them launch, nurture and grow their own businesses thereby reducing the high unemployment rate in Nigeria.
The centreswill also help in the commercialization of ideas, inventions, and projects from the academic community – To tap into the potentials of renowned and distinguished professors and other academics to build world class businesses. This will be a catalyst that will drive innovation from the Nigerian Universities.
It will however provide a platform that will foster collaboration in research and development between Israel, the US and Nigeria.
More also,through an exchange program, Entrepreneurs from the center will have opportunity to visit Israel, Silicon Valley and also learn from the culture of entrepreneurship in those countries.
The Technology Innovation centreswill be a channel to introduce Nigeria’s young tech entrepreneurs and their businesses to the international market and expose them to Venture Capitalists, Partners etc. that will scale their businesses.
All of these and many more benefits of such tech entrepreneurship centres in the Nigerian universities will be possible with the full support of the Nigerian Government and the Tech industry.
Each year with our Education Network Conference, we look at how the academic community in Nigeria can leverage technology and innovation for Education. This year EduNet2014 will focus on How Nigerian Universities can drive Technology and Innovation with the major objective of building Tech Ecosystems within the Nigerian Universities.