By Simon Musa Reef
Last week’s inauguration of the Research and Development Standing Committee (RDSC) of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in Abuja by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, turned out a milestone event as it marked a deliberate attempt at seeking to institutionalize Research and Development (R&D) models as tools for national growth.
In a modern world well-defined by the use of knowledge economy in advancing development initiatives, the attempt by TETFund under the leadership of Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro to commence a paradigm shift towards the promotion of knowledge economy could not have come at a better time, following the collapse of crude oil prices in the international market.
Unlike in a situation where members of the academic community see research studies as requisite requirements for promotion to advance their careers, the need to resort to deploying scholarly research for development has not only become imperative but also indispensable.
Nigeria’s dismal development performance has been linked to non-deployment of researches in resolving challenges plaguing the country, with absence or neglect of relevant scholarly studies left unattended. That, perhaps, explains why challenges that should have been resolved long ago have remained herculean.
The inability to use research studies as means of emancipating our country from the shackles of underdevelopment has largely accounted for Nigeria’s slow and uninspiring climb on the ladder of development The unprecedented advancements attained by Asian Tigers, among others, have clearly demonstrated that development of nations can only be realised when their intellectual prowess are deployed to provide new innovations to solve their peculiar problems.
Last week’s inauguration of the RDSC provided bright prospects for the institutionalization of R&D models in advancing national growth. With the presence of distinguished and prominent members of the private sector, academia and members of the National Assembly, in attendance, the event serves as a prologue to the establishment of National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) that is expected to monitor R&D initiatives for national advancement.
In his keynote address at the occasion, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro, captured the urgent need to focus on R&D to promote knowledge economy when he said, “For too long, there has been a palpable and worrisome disconnect between academia and industry such that research in our tertiary institutions were merely a means to climbing the academic ladder, and mostly for promotions, rather than problem solving for the good of our nation.
“For industry, it was more convenient to shop for innovations and the results of research findings in clime outside the shores of Nigeria since the academia have developed thick walls and create artificial valleys that prevent the industry from leveraging Research outputs in our Tertiary institutions. Coupled with the mutual distrust between academia and industry, these factors have negated the principles of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which identifies traditional and indigenous people at the center of development.”
Extolling President Muhammadu Buhari for taking more than a momentary interest in “providing a framework for the development of Science and Technology (S&T) by mainstreaming it into our national development strategies,” Professor Bogoro noted with delight that the Federal Government graciously increased budgetary appropriations to the National Research Fund by 50% as shown from increase of N5 billion in 2019 budget to N7.5 billion in 2020 budget, following recommendations by the TETFund’s Board of Trustees.
As rightly outlined by the TETFund’s boss, the ultimate goals of the RDSC is the “institutionalization of R&D in Nigeria; content development in our tertiary institutions for improved global rankings; stimulate the development of R&D units and departments in private and public enterprises/organizations in Nigeria; establishment of National R&D Foundation for sustainable funding and management; mainstreaming R&D solutions for economic diversification and frontloading R&D for policy, program and project development by governments at all levels.”
Much as there’s a genuine cause to give a standing ovation to the Federal Government’s disposition in increasing research funds in the 2020 budget, the TETFund’s boss disclosed that considering the number of universities and tertiary institutions in the country, the sum of $1 billion is needed on a yearly basis for implementing research and development models in order to create new innovative products towards engendering national growth.
Against the backdrop of the poor and dismal ratings of our ivory towers and research schools on global ranking, the new focus by the TETFund’s leadership is imbued with the capacity of improving the rating of our universities and other tertiary schools at both global and continental ranking scale. The entrenchment and institutionalization of R&D models could serve as the new focus by TETFund after leaving indelible footprints in terms of infrastructural development, among others, in almost all the nation’s tertiary schools.
On the face of many development challenges confronting Nigeria, there’s a need to refocus our energies to fully realise the potential of national development through the institutionalization of R&D models. In an era where revenues available to government are decreasing, the active engagement of the private sector and eggheads to chart a new paradigm shift that enables industries to partner with research scholars for innovative products and services is increasingly becoming necessary.
More significantly, the presence of National Assembly members at last week’s event and their resolve to support the R&D models through legislation for its institutionalization makes bright the hope for the formation of a National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF).
Looking at the 13-sector-based thematic areas the RDSC has outlined, the need to prioritise to salvage our citizens from the throes of underdevelopment requires urgent actions. Of all the thematic areas identified by the RDSC, there’s need to deploy R&D models to tackle challenges confronting our nation. Some of these areas are agriculture (including Climate Change, Food Security, Food Science and Technology; environment and Bio-resources; medicine – One Health (Human, Farm Animals. Wild Life; pharmaceuticals; ICT/Digital economy; industrialisation, Manufacturing Trade and investment & Economy; education; defence and military, among others.
If we ever hope to emerge from the mud of underdevelopment, as Professor Bogoro appropriately pointed out, we need to work towards ensuring “a veritable paradigm shift in our quest for a more competitive technology and economy through a decisive departure from the old order. Governments, Academia and industry must interface in a sustainable manner that produces goods and services for local consumption and export. Any research that does not hold out commercial possibilities is, in my view, an effort in futility against the emerging realities of these times and seasons.”
Nations have continued not to rest on their oars in charting new paths for national growth through resorting to research and development models to resolve challenges peculiar to them. Establishing the National Research and Development Foundation has, therefore, become indispensable if we are to sustain the dream of providing modern innovations and innovative products to tackle problems afflicting the Nigerian society.
With the inspiring footprints of TETFund in changing the sordid story of infrastructural decay that once plagued tertiary institutions in Nigeria, many citizens see the Fund’s new vision in institutionalizing research and development efforts as the much needed prologue in advancing the growth of our country.
With the favourable disposition of federal lawmakers to legislate and institutionalize research and development innovativeness, the active engagement of both the private sector and academia is set to broaden the frontlines of the knowledge economy for Nigeria’s growth in various sectors of national life.