There are hordes of research products or results from Nigerian research institutions awaiting commercialization.
These technologies and innovations, when adopted, would not only create jobs but would also bring a major boost to economic activities in the country.
The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), for example, has developed a technology for rearing grasscutter as a domestic animal; but how can an unemployed young school leaver raise funds to utilize this technology to transform his life?
Experts say venture capital is an option.
Venture capital is money provided by investors to start up firms and small businesses with perceived long-term growth potential. This is a very important source of funding for startups that do not have access to capital markets. It entails high risk for the investor, but it has the potential for above-average returns.
Board member of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Sam Olofin, said, “If a man has an idea and develops it, for it to become usable, he needs some venture capital. Some of our universities have research results lying on the shelves and nobody gets to think about them.”
He further noted that for any investor to give out his money as a venture capital for an entrepreneur to access, he would consider if adequate infrastructure is in place for the expected return on investment, and that government has a lot to do in terms promoting industrialization.
According to Olofin, “It requires a holistic approach to say we want to promote industrialization: what are the minimum requirements for us to be able to achieve this level of industrialization; for us to make concerted efforts to address the various issues that relate to ensuring that, that invention or that creativity by that young man in a polytechnic does not get wasted.”
The efforts of government directed at promoting local technologies seem scattered so he suggested that adequate synergy would deliver positive results
The Director-General of Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Peter Onwualu also believes that although venture capital is the way to go, government has a key role to play in ensuring that research products are made marketable.
“Venture capital is an option; it’s just that the few venture capital investors in this country operate like commercial banks. We tried to use one of them and they wanted us to pay for feasibility study and their interest rate is as high as that of commercial banks.
“If government can set up venture capital development banks, people can borrow money at low interests and set up new companies using our research products,” he said.
The Director-General of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Prof. Olusegun Adewoye, thinks government would probably give grants to private sector players to acquire the research output and get their money back in taxes.
“In America, for every one dollar government gives to incubation, or science and technology transfer, government gets its dollar back through taxes and job creation. That is why this government and the national elite must wake up to this reality: that this nation cannot develop without science and technology. It is not a matter of paying lip service; they must put more money to science and engineering infrastructure,” he said.