BY HENRY TYOHEMBA, Abuja
Since staging a comeback as the executive secretary of TETFund in January, 2019, Professor Suleiman Bogoro came with a vision, including taking research and development (R&D) to the next level using the triple helix model.
Triple helix, a model of innovation which uses a set of interactions between academia (the university), industry and government, to foster economic and social development, as described in concepts such as the knowledge economy and knowledge society has been adopted by other developed countries.
Bogoro began the process of bringing the researchers and industries on the same platform when in September last year inaugurated a 162-member standing committee on Research and Development (R&D) to ensure a paradigm shift in research and development in the country.
The committee, which encompasses people in the industry and academia, was expected to focus on 13 thematic areas, including education, agriculture, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital economy, engineering, defence and military, and energy.
Moreover, various commentators have opined that real economic growth is driven by new knowledge backed with innovation and the source of the new knowledge is the research and development efforts of academia in state-of-the-art laboratories of research institutes and higher education institutions especially universities.
The capabilities of the researchers are complemented by the level of institutional support they can muster within their home institutions and other external sources. Industry has remained hungry for innovative products and processes that will improve their bottom line while Government’s role of policy formulation being undisputed, has remained the core of its intervention roles, according to experts.
Speaking recently at a function in Abuja, the TETFund boss stressed that the outputs of collaboration between the three entities remain the creation of new products, processes and improved socioeconomic services all outcomes of which drive balanced economic growth.
“The strength of each individual entity can be established through its ability to sustain its own efforts and guarantee the delivery of its mandate and responsibility to the triple helix model. The success of the collaboration of academia, industry and government can thus be measurable within the ability of each entity to sustain its own activities.
“The academia in this instance must rally round its own and develop the necessary capacities to sustain its own output of new knowledge through basic research, applied research and research and development driven by innovation.
“All higher educational institutions are by their core academic mandate required to harness their strengths through collaboration, using various models of linkages, and partnerships, to create the required atmosphere for the evolution of new knowledge. This is a clarion call for the re-evaluation of these models of collaboration so that the higher education institutions can be better and stronger in the intertwining helical relationship with government and industry which the triple helix model envisages.
“The walls of the cocoons and silos must come down, the distinction between public and private higher education institutions need to be blurred for the simple reason that knowledge does not reside in any one place alone. New knowledge can only be developed and established in an environment that allows the freedom of academic thought and cross fertilization of ideas for innovation.
“The TETFund intervention programmes, especially in research, while being limited to public tertiary institutions (Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education) have been opened up to accommodate the necessary participation of the wider family of academia in competing for the NRF research grants in particular,” he said.
Bogoro who further stressed the triple helix model of innovation as set of interactions between academia (The University), industry, and government, to foster economic and social development, as described in concepts such as the knowledge economy and knowledge society, said the triple helix model envisages the symbiotic intertwining of the functions and deliberate actions of the major partners in the drive for economic development through R&D and innovation. These partners in the broad sense are Government, Academia or Universities and Industry.
He said, “In Nigeria the academia (Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education) having been balkanized into two groups of private and public institutions. The need to seek new ways of partnering so that their best efforts can be synchronized to drive this paradigm shift, propel and sustain Nigeria’s drive towards economic prosperity becomes imperative.
“This brings into immediate focus, the need to canvas the urgent development of new partnerships between the public and private institutions across the spectrum of Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education to consolidate the centrality of the academic mandate of the various Tertiary Education Institutions. Inter alia, identification of socio-economic and technological problems, national aspirations of the Nigerian society and finding appropriate solutions to them through R&D and within the context of the overall national development.
“Tertiary Educational Institutions the world over are positioned to be the bridge between a productive society and knowledge growth. There has to be a strong collaborative partnership between Higher Education Institutions, Government and the Industry, the “Triple Helix”, the confluence of which is a powerful one that drives the economy of nations.”