Collaboration, New Incentives, Organisational Entity Essential to Innovation -Expert
Collaboration is essential for innovation as Universities, research institutes, and small and large businesses contribute to regional growth and development.
A distinguished Materials and Metallurgical Engineer, Professor Oluwatoyin Ashiru, on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, made this submission at the first lecture of the virtual Seminar Series of the College of Engineering, Covenant University.
Professor Ashiru, who delivered a lecture titled, 'How to Successfully Source, Process, Secure Funds and Execute Beneficial Research Projects for Industry', said that new institutions and new incentives were increasingly crucial for faster innovation and collaboration. He added that there was a need for an organizational entity in engineering schools for driving sustainable University-Industry Collaboration (UIC).
He explained that innovation started with an idea, and a strategic framework was required to transform an idea into prosperity. While stating that there were many ideas, he lamented the lack of a structure.
He posited that to progress from the present situation, there was the need for encouragement and academics should get themselves into Research and Development (R&D) rather than insignificant things. He added that companies must recognize that to innovate successfully, they could not exclusively do it alone as there was a need for teamwork.
He stated that working with universities had posed considerable challenges to industries. According to him, open nature of academic science conflicted with the need to protect technologies, academic research focused on long-term problems and thus may move slowly. He noted that researchers and scientists from universities were not familiar with industry needs, amongst others.
Professor Ashiru, who commended Covenant University for giving a lot of hope to the Nigerian industry sector, urged academics should weigh the efforts put into research instead of publications. He said that a lot of things had research weight than papers, and researchers must do the study in a structured environment.
The expert highlighted steps to take to get sponsorship for research as identifying one's assets to the sponsor, proper timing, be data-heavy in one's proposal, proposal of different package levels, and make the plan look just about the sponsors.
While speaking about issues that craved attention, Professor Ashiru said that industries sometimes found universities too slow and laidback to be right partners. He added that businesses not working with universities didn't know the missed opportunities and research funds on offer from industries to universities were poorly accessed.
"Research suggests that universities can structure their relationships with companies in ways that make them much more valuable. To do this, companies must actively embrace universities, using the differences between industry and academia to their advantage. Universities can come up with better designs than consultants out there," said Professor Ashiru.
Research and Development, said the expert, was about a symbiotic relationship between the Industries and the Universities. He stated that while universities provided support and value for the business objectives of industries, industries, in turn, provided the universities with funding and market-based skills transfer to help develop the students.
In his remarks at the lecture, the Vice-Chancellor of Landmark University, Professor Adeniyi Olayanju, stated that one good thing COVID-19 had done was to allow the Nigerian academia to rethink. According to him, since there was less teaching, academics could sit down and think about how they get involved in translational research. He appreciated the Covenant University Vice-Chancellor, Professor AAA. Atayero, and the Dean College of Engineering, Professor David Omole, for bringing Professor Ashiru to come and share his wealth of experience with faculty members at Covenant and Landmark Universities.
Also, the Director, Covenant University Centre for Research, Innovation and Discovery (CUCRID), Professor Emeka Iweala, said that as an institution Covenant had been able to put together most of the structures enunciated by Professor Ashiru. He stated that the Centre was out to get the industry interested involved in the products coming out of the institution.
Distinguished Materials and Metallurgical Engineer, Professor Oluwatoyin Ashiru