• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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UNILAG connects 362 innovators to marketplace through ‘Innovation-to-Market’ initiative

UNILAG connects 362 innovators to marketplace through ‘Innovation-to-Market’ initiative

… funding up 112 percent

In driving Nigeria’s vibrant and rapidly expanding innovation ecosystem, the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka through its Innovation–to–Market Project (I2M) has trained and connected 362 novel innovators to the market in its first year.

Abiodun Gbenga-Ilori, the director of Project I2M &ITMO disclosed this at the 2023 end-of-year press conference of the project to evaluate the progress made since its inception, and raise awareness for the year 2024, held recently inside the Design Studio Building, Faculty of Social Science at the Akoka campus of the university.

Read also: UNILAG upskills students for entrepreneurship, global market

“The project partnered with facilitators drawn across academia and industry to develop training on various aspects of innovation and uploaded these on the learning management system of the iBank platform.

“The onboarded innovators were to participate in a self-paced training on innovation and its nuances. 362 innovators from the 524 completed the training.

“Completing the training was a prerequisite to receiving further support from the project. Innovators with promising innovation, who could convincingly show a viable plan for the market, were scheduled to pitch for resources from the project,” she said.

Gbenga-Ilori explained that the project which is being funded by a grant from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) through the Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (RISA) to address three core challenges that inhibit innovation such as lack of training on how to innovate, lack of a support system for innovators, and lack of a clear pathway from innovation to market.

“The office received a grant of $352,682 from FCDO through RISA in 2023 to tackle the mentioned challenges,” she said.

“The funders have extended the line of funding for Project I2M from $352,682 to $748,722, hence, year two of project execution has commenced in earnest.

“The project has evolved into a multi-year intervention and the application process for this year has commenced,” she added.

The director further pointed out that innovators with promising innovation, who could convincingly show a viable plan for the market were scheduled to pitch for resources from the project.

Resources provided to innovators included; prototype funding, intellectual property (IP) filing, company and tax registration, access to the incubator programme, and industry linkage towards commercialisation.

According her, in Year 1, the Project I2M accomplished the following; 62 innovators received prototype funding, 67 intellectual property applications were filed, 50 startups were incubated, 40 startups filed with the corporate affairs commission, and 20 startups received seed grants of N850,000.00 each.

Folasade Ogunsola, the vice-chancellor of UNILAG applauded the project, describing it as an initiative geared towards turning concepts into viable commercial ventures.

“This initiative aims to bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation. Its primary objective is to provide innovators with the necessary resources, mentorship, and support to transform their ideas into market-ready products and services,” she said.

Ogunsola maintained that the key strength of the project is its holistic approach that makes it consider the multifaceted nature of innovation, recognising that success requires more than just a brilliant idea.

Modupe Ologunagba, a lecturer in Faculty of Pharmacy, UNILAG, one of the innovators that benefited from the initiative shared her experiences with I2M Project.

“My product or innovation is in the area of product development. I innovated a poly-herbal formulation for burns. The conventional products for the management of burns are actually based from chemicals, and most of them do have side effect and are quite expensive.

For extensive burns, you have to use this product for a length of time and this tells on the pockets of patients.

Looking inwards and due to the lessons of covid-19 pandemic, there is a need for the pharma industry to look inwards because we have a lot of flora that are effective and can be utilised.

The idea of utilisation of local content to develop our products is a strategy to ensure medicine security, affordability, and availability.

Speaking on how the initiative has helped her, Ologunagba said; “I2M has helped me in the area of harnessing my potential into entrepreneurship. Even though I’m a formulation scientist, I have not been looking at it from the angle going into entrepreneurship which is what is needed.

I have been able to do a prototype of the product. I intend enlisting for the acceleration model so that I can be listed for the training hub for the eventual commercialisation.”

In numerous Western countries, universities and research institutes drive innovation. Nigeria still has some work to do in this regard in positioning its tertiary and research institutions to be the bulwark of innovation in the country.

This is necessary as there is currently a very low correlation between research works and innovation. Project Innovation to Market is an initiative of the Innovation and Technology Management Office (ITMO) of UNILAG.

The project commenced in 2023 and came at a time when the university management began the thrust to make the institution the lighthouse of innovation for other universities.

The project consortium currently has 11 members and they are; the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), University of Benin (UNIBEN), University of Jos (UNIJOS), Maranatha University Lagos (MUL), Bayero University Kano (BUK), University of Ibadan (UI), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Lead City University (LCU), Professor Ayodele Awojobi Design Competition – PAADC, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), and Imo State University, Owerri (IMSU)

Dignitaries that graced the event are David Alozie, director of innovation; Sunday Adebisi, director of industry partnership; Hakeem Amuda, director of the incubator programme; and Patrick Okonji, director of the research consortium, among others.