Commercialization of research prototypes has been the most daunting task and inhibitor to Nigeria’s stride to become technologically relevant. Experience indicates that even the most promising ideas face daunting commercialization challenges as difficulty always exists between promising concepts and viable products.
To address this challenge, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) galvanized relevant information and communications technology stakeholders and academia to address the issues hindering commercialization of research prototypes as part of its objectives of enhancing indigenous content in the Nigerian communications sector.
At a stakeholder regional roundtable in Lagos on Wednesday 3rd August, 2022 with the theme ‘The path from innovative research to commercialization of viable prototypes’, NCC disclosed that as at the end of 2021, it has provided over N522 million as research grants to tertiary institutions in the country and each research is designed to deliver a prototype that can be commercialized for the benefit of the industry and consumers.
The roundtable was aimed at bringing together resource persons, business savvy industry experts, the Academia, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), experts from the Federal Ministry of Technology, entrepreneurs and renowned individuals who have successfully commercialized their inventions.
The academia is a key driver of innovation in all spheres of human endeavour. But in specific terms, the ideas, inventions and improvements that emanate from the Academia are required by Industry for improved efficiencies and productivity. With this in mind, the regulator as a critical component of any ecosystem, aims to ensure all stakeholders are protected and the industry nurtured for maximum benefit to business and society.
The chairman of the Board of the NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande, restated the commitment of the commission to commit more funds to research and prototypes resulting from grants from the Commission to the academia, adding that it would engender innovations and build indigenous technological capabilities that would strengthen the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystem .
Akande said, explaining that the essence of the roundtable was to dialogue with academia, industry and other stakeholders on how research efforts and prototypes can be transformed into commercially-viable products that solve real-life problems.
The executive vice chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said faced with the challenges of commercializing research prototypes, it is clear that the NCC will have to make a commitment to facilitate the contributions from Academia, by supporting the commercialization of these prototypes, to deepen the indigenous technological capabilities which would support the overall development of the industry.
He said this will support the overall growth of the industry and creating wealth for the spin-off companies. “To this end, academia is a key driver of innovation in all spheres of human endeavour. But in specific terms, the ideas, inventions and improvements that emanate from academia are required by Industry for improved efficiencies and productivity”, Danbatta added.
NCC executive commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska, who was represented by director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity at the Commission, Bako Wakil, revealed that the Commission had, so far, awarded a total of 49 telecom-based research grants to the academia out of which 10 prototypes have been successfully developed.
Presenting the lead paper at the event, chief technical officer, 9Mobile, Baqi Salihu revealed that less than two per cent of Research and Development (R&D) in Nigeria has been commercialized and this is because the significant percentage of research is not demand-driven with no effective linkage between knowledge centers and industry.
“To upturn this recurring issue, we need to focus on market or industry-led research and development by bridging the information gap between Industry, academia and regulators to remove encumbrances and improve acceptance,” Salihu added.
Valentine Ozigbo, chairman, Valentine Chineto Ozigbo Foundation noted that the 2021 Global Innovation Index created by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranks Nigeria 118th out of 132 economies. Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States of America lead the world.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania lead. Another worrying statistic. Nigeria filed 425 patents in 2020. There is a difference between filed and approved. Between 2010 and 2020 (ten years), Nigeria filed 1,702 patents.
He called for a Needs-based Approach, Seeds-based Approach and Accelerated Innovation Approach to innovation. “What Nigeria needs is what I call a Radical Innovation Approach. One that considers all three protocols above and even some more. One that identifies problems nobody has thought about and solves before they know they had a problem.
“It is advisable to seal the protection of your ideas via patenting, trademarking, and other intellectual property registrations. An initial feasibility study would also support the process at this point.