Hub ’ll enable creation of indigenous solutions
From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
That Wednesday morning was quite sunny. Many of the students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) had gathered at the Princess Alexandria auditorium to be accredited to enter into the hall.
The institution was making history again with the launch of a full-fledged university-embedded science and technology incubator called Roar Nigeria Hub, the first of its kind in West Africa.
The hub built on the concept of triple helix, which is an interaction amongst the academia, the industry and the government to promote ideas, and marketable innovations among students and researchers, is a joint venture of the university and Benefiting Our Community (BOG) innovations.
According to the promoters, Roar Nigeria aims to produce new generation of innovators that would provide local technology-based solutions with global perspective.
The launch on April 25 attracted foremost IT companies, including Google, Facebook, Huawei Technologies, Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), National Information Technology Agency (NITDA), Computer Warehouse Group, and ExxonMobil.
The event began in earnest with the Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, Prof. Patience Osadebe, saying the opening prayers.
“We are tired of benefiting from food is ready; help us cook our own food for others to eat,” she prayed to God. Indeed, her prayer was in the minds of the other people that attended the launch.
This was seen when the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his address noted that Nigeria would not attend the desired level of development if it continued to rely on technologies produced by other nations.
The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Science and Technology, Greg Nnaji, said the concept of the hub was in line with the effort of the government to entrench information technology culture in the state to boost economic development, as well as produce employment for the youths.
The hub was midwifed by the administration of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, who after visiting a science park in Sweden in 2016, vowed to replicate it in UNN.
A happy Ozumba said: “We want to turn Nigeria around with inventions and innovations. Very soon, you will hear about students of UNN making laudable inventions in ICT and other fields of life.”
Ozumba had taken the first step of ensuring that students of the university were IT compliant in 2015, when he mandated that every student owned a laptop computer in order to meet the demands of the 21st Century tertiary education.
Although the policy attracted mixed reactions leading to the removal of the compulsory clause, the vice chancellor still believes that the university has the capacity to assemble its own laptop.
“In the next few months, made in UNN laptops will flood the Nigerian market, this is the first mandate of Roar Nigeria Hub,” he said.
Besides the manufacturing of laptops, the vice chancellor has another big dream of the university assembling tractors for agricultural use in no distant time.
He, therefore, challenged the Roar Nigeria Hub to come up with innovations that would curtail wastage of agricultural produce in the country.
Part of the promises of the hub is to assist young innovators secure funds to set their ideas in motion; provide mentorship to young innovators, and support innovative ideas into marketable products.
Chairman/Director of Roar Nigeria, Okechi Igwebuike said the hub would enable the creation of indigenous solutions, jobs and economic growth within its environment.
He noted that the initiative which is private sector driven would be taken to other universities across the country.
The hub started on a good note with three innovative groups presenting their proposals.
The first group called “Agromess” developed an app that would help farmers solve the problem of wastage of agricultural products.
The app will help identify parts of the country that have surplus agro products and link them to areas where the products are in deficit.
The second group called “Malicha” developed a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to recommend hairstyle that will fit a particular facial make-up, while the third group called “Thrillers” developed an app that will notify people of events happening around them on their mobile phones.
All the proposals were made by students of UNN.