The maiden conference of the faculty of natural sciences at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU), Lapai, Niger state, themed: “Commercialization of Research Output for National Development,” was aimed at alleviating poverty through effective commercialization of research findings in Nigeria.
The application of scientific knowledge and research findings in the development of products or solutions to economic, environmental, health and agricultural challenges is the basis of development in most advanced countries of the world. The value of scientific research produced at universities and research institutions can only be fully harnessed when its findings are effectively translated into innovations, industrial processes or tangible products for human use.
Although there`s an increasing public confidence in the role science, technology, and innovations (STIs) could play in bringing about development in Nigeria; the country`s inability to effectively turn the outcomes of indigenous scientific research into tangible useful products that will spur the needed development, has been hurting its socioeconomic growth for long.
To this end, the maiden conference of the faculty of natural sciences at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU), themed: “Commercialization of Research Output for National Development,” was aimed at alleviating poverty through the commercialization of research findings in Nigeria. The annual conference, the first of its kind in Nigeria, was held May 6 – 9, 2019 at the varsity’s campus in Lapai, Niger state. It had in attendance over 300 participants from across the country including academics from universities in Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja, Edo, and Nasarawa states.
In his opening remarks at the conference, the vice-chancellor of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU), Prof. Mohammed Maiturare, lamented the lack of effective commercialization of scientific research and innovations in Nigeria, which he said, was key to the development of nations. “Nigerian universities and research institutes have over the years generated ideas, knowledge and innovations. Unfortunately, most of these potential trademarks are just placed on the shelves lying fallow in the libraries, wasting away fantastic economic opportunities,” said Maiturare.
“Several factors have been identified as being responsible for [Nigeria`s] inability to convert research outputs into tangible [products] in the country. These include [lack of adequate] research funding, lack of investment in Research and Development (R & D) by the private sector, absence of research-industries-linkages, as well as the near absence of relevant engineering infrastructure required to translate prototypes to actual commercial models.”
The conference’s keynote speaker, Prof. Sunday Thomas, director-general of Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHETSCO) noted that biotechnology research was vital to the growth of Nigeria in terms of ensuring food security and alleviating poverty hence, the need for industries and institutions to incorporate the field of study. “It is very important to note, the more experience we have accumulated in practicing biotechnology with university partners, the greater the performance impact of university-industry collaborations,” said Thomas.
The Sheda Science and Technology Complex is Nigeria`s first multidisciplinary research and development center, established in 1993 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, as an arm of the Ministry of Science and Technology, with the capacity to conduct and apply biotechnology research in Nigeria.
Thomas noted that scientific innovations would be the largest driving force of national development in the nearest future, based on research and development adding that it would lead to emerging bio-economies across the world. “The key driver of economic development is innovation based on R&D. This is a product of collaboration between universities and corporations. Innovation, ventures and intellectual assets are what ultimately drive economic growth and lead to improvement in the standards of living.”
While presenting a paper titled: “Commercialization of agricultural biotechnology research outputs, a placenta to national development,” Dr. Rose Gidado, assistant director at the department of agricultural biotechnology of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) cum country coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria chapter, enlightened conference delegates on the safety and status of genetically modified (GM) crops in Nigeria.
Gidado noted that for the past two decades, modern biotechnology, particularly the use of genetically modified (GM) organisms, have been at the center of global conversations on public policy. “Agriculture remains the main user of modern biotechnology, applied mainly to mitigate various production constraints and enhance crop production, quality and nutritional value through commercial production of genetically modified crops,” said Gidado who was represented by Henry Kumba, a senior commercial officer at NABDA.
In addition, Gidado highlighted the importance of agricultural biotechnology to developing countries such as Nigeria, which she said included higher crop yield and more profit for farmers, cheaper and safer foods, as well as, a significant reduction in the use of pesticides and agrochemicals.
While speaking on the commercialization of agricultural biotechnology research outcomes in Nigeria using the genetically modified (GM) Cowpea – Nigeria`s first commercialized GM food crop – as a case study, Gidado said, “The ultimate target beneficiaries of PBR [pod-borer resistant] Cowpea are the smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The farmers are the users of the products, which are expected to enhance productivity and improve livelihoods.”
The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) is an initiative of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). It was established in 2010, to enhance knowledge sharing and awareness on agricultural biotechnology in Africa. Amongst others, OFAB aims to contribute towards informed policy and decision making processes on matters of agricultural biotechnology in Africa through the dissemination of credible scientific information.
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