By Gabriel Dike
Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, has described innovation as one of a major drivers of any nation’s economic growth, even as he stressed the need for universities to promote research and innovation.
Prof. Ogundipe described innovation as the outcome of research and development activities, which leads to the development of new technologies, skills and knowledge. He further said innovation entails utilising new ideas for the creation of goods and services.
His words: “Innovation has been found to play an important role in economic development. Productivity change that has close links with technological progress and innovation determines long-term growth in income per capita.
“There are also considerable gains to employing modern technologies and innovation even in the medium and short terms in developing countries.’’
Ogundipe made the observation while delivering the Osun State College of Education 43rd Founder’s Day lecture 2021, titled “Research and Innovation: Key Drivers for Sustainable National Development.”
He acknowledged that the university plays an important role in innovation and national development, stating the traditional role of the university is to provide education and develop people in research and innovation.
The VC said, in modern times, the university plays additional roles beyond its traditional roles, which include knowledge and technology transfer to the industry, commercialisation of knowledge and active role in national and regional innovation systems.
The professor of Botany advocated increased funding for research and adequate attention to be paid to the economic utilisation of researches, particularly for high technology and knowledge-based sectors where scientific inputs are important in the innovation process.
According to him, several studies have been documented to show that the role of universities in innovation and sustainable development is valuable for the private and public sectors. He supported his position in five major areas, adding that each of the roles was related to research and innovation.
Prof. Ogundipe explained that, based on the importance of these roles to research, innovation and sustainable development, it is assumed that the mission of any university would go in line with these functions.
He listed factors impeding the performance of universities in relation to driving innovation to include poor funding, skill and knowledge gap, infrastructural deficiency, brain drain and poor level ethical standards.
“These challenges are seen as major obstacles preventing Nigerian universities from performing the expected roles and contribute to research and innovation. In spite of these challenges, it has been reported that some progress has been made by the universities.’’
The UNILAG VC said there has been a wide gap between the enrolment of male and female applicants into fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the country and even at the global level.
Ogundipe further explained that most girls found it difficult to develop interest towards science related fields due to the perceived stable motivation required for such fields, which girls may lack.
Said he: ‘’In spite of these challenges to women enrolment to STEM-related fields in Nigeria, recent statistics have shown that the gap between the enrolment of men and women into STEM has reduced. Further, the country has taken some steps to remove all forms of discriminations, most especially those related to gender discrimination.’’
He further described education as vital tool for shaping young people’s culture, skills and attitudes, noting ‘’it is important for entrepreneurial studies to be engaged from an early age. It is also worth mentioning that achieving entrepreneurial skills is not limited to the formal educational institution sphere.’’
The VC advocated for the establishment of skills and vocational centres, where innovative, technical and technological works are being taught can also enhance the innovative spirit of young individuals.
Ogundipe expect government to play a vital role in ensuring that the economic, political, legal, as well as institutional environment are accommodative to innovative ideas and entrepreneurial studies are being encouraged.
He acknowledged that there are certain barriers to growth and development in relation to research and innovation, especially in developing World including Nigeria, stressing that the barriers can be removed.
“This would be achieved through appropriate policies aimed at removing obstacles to risk financing access, investment in intangible assets, public investment and public-private partnership in the development of adequate digital platforms, promotion of digital learning in the education curriculum and the development of a robust nationwide database.’’
He said for developing countries to realise the benefits of research and innovation in the drive for growth and development, ambitious policy mix that promotes innovation-led transition should be adopted.