The management of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka launched the institution’s project ‘Innovation to Market’ (I2M) on Thursday, May 11, 2023 at the Faculty of Social Sciences auditorium of the main campus.
The project is aimed at empowering innovators and researchers in Nigeria to take their innovative products to the market, the university management said. It is an initiative funded by UKAID’s Research and Innovation System for Africa (RISA).
The I2M is meant to nurture innovations at various stages, by providing training, incubation, mentorship, advisory, funding, patenting company and tax registration and industry linkage, the support needed to create and commercialize innovations that solve societal problems.
The project prioritises innovations from Nigerian youth, women and persons with disability (PWD). It is tailored to create pathways and channels for innovations to get to the market.
Folasade Ogunsola, vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos in her address at the event said the university by the unveiling of the Innovation to Market was fulfilling what it does uniquely.
“We are very innovative, we are very creative, and we are very entrepreneurs.
What we have done in the University of Lagos in the last ten years was to try and refocus this and to make it something that can lead to development, to improve our environment, so that it is not just everybody doing what they like, but to channel it in a way that it becomes strong, ” she said.
Ogunsola in addition said; “It is a pleasure to witness the unfolding of what I will call focusing on innovation and entrepreneurial skills.”
The vice-chancellor pointed out that the project seeks to bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation. The project recognizes the challenges that exist in the ecosystem especially for start-ups.
She maintained that despite the abundance of brilliant ideas many innovators face significant hurdles when it comes to turning their concepts into viable commercial ventures and that this is tougher in Nigeria.
She reiterated that the idea of the project is to provide innovators and researchers with the necessary resources, mentorship and support to transform their ideas into market trading products and services.
She assured that participants will have access to a wide range of services such as prototype funding, business registration, and intellectual property protection among others.
According to the 13th vice-chancellor of UNILAG, “The main objective of the project is to bridge the knowledge gap-by providing learning robust resources on how to innovate and translate research to outputs into the market.”
Ayodele Atsenuwa, deputy vice-chancellor in charge of development services at the University of Lagos in her remark said that at 60 the institution is poised to become a university for the developmental charting of the cause of innovation development not just in Nigeria but in Africa.
“I say this with confidence because true innovation has always been the other leg of research for which universities have been known but somehow innovation didn’t quite gain the kind of place that it deserved in the spectrum,” she said.
Atsenuwa highlighted the fact that innovation should be encompassed in order to accommodate societal challenges such as youth unemployment by empowering the unemployed in the ecosystem, and not just within the university community.
Abiodun Gbenga-Ilori, project director at the Innovation and Technology Management (ITMO), UNILAG in her address quoted a US philosopher, “Innovation is key to the future but the basic research is the key to future innovation.”
So in essence she said, there is a connection between the research being done in universities and true innovations.
However, she disclosed that her founding within her period in office shows that Nigeria is not doing well when it comes to innovations.
“I realised that there are a lot of research grants coming into the university; 158 grants were secured by UNILAG, in the year 2021 alone UNILAG secured about N2 billion as research grants from 97 research grants, we are not yet there, but it is not small,” she said.
Ilori further revealed that the country had over 13,000 publications published in the year 2020 alone, and that they were merely focused based journals. And according to the ITMO director, her citations are from Wikipedia, which ranked Nigeria 50 out of 224 countries, and that the exercise translated to less than 300 innovations which suggests that the country is not doing well.
She said that ranking put Nigeria even lower than Ghana which is a pointer to the fact that the country is not do well when it comes to innovations.
However, she assured that the project will change the narratives by leveraging its partnerships to secure more project funding to sustain the project.
“ITMO shall also plow back income from innovations licensed or commercialized to fund various aspects of the project,” she noted.
Ladan Ashafa, acting director of skills development and entrepreneurship (DSDE) who represented Abubakar Rasheed, chairman of the National Universities Commission (NUC) said what UNILAG was doing is in tandem with the commission’s paradigm shift in its Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standard (CCMAS).
According to Ashafa, “NUC’s CCMAS provides 70 percent of what should be taught along with the expected outcomes, while universities are to provide the 30 percent based on their individual contextual peculiarities and characteristics.”