By Dwelleth Morountodun
The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has assured that the 2022 Science Technology and Innovation Expo, which commences on Monday 14 will show Nigeria as the home of creativity and innovation.
He expressed optimism that the start-ups revolution will morph into small enterprise, medium scale and large-scale manufacturers in years ahead as inventors and investors meet at the annual expo.
Fielding questions from Science Reporters after an on-the-spot assessment of construction work that will host the yearly event at the Eagle Square in Abuja, he said the President Muhammadu Buhari scholarship award to the three brightest young Nigerian scientists selected from the 774 LGAs in 36 States and the FCT who came first, second and third in the highly competitive science competition.
He said they will be given the opportunity to pursue their careers in science-based courses up to Ph.D. level though must be in any Nigerian Universities in line with the Presidential Executive Order 5.
He added that a body of experts that will go round all the booths to look at the best research findings from the Universities, Institutes and the private sector and awards will be accordingly given to deserving inventors.
According to him, the expo will bring together researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and investors in the process of bringing them together, there will be beneficial impact in the commercialization of research findings in our laboratories can now be converted into products and services found in our markets and shops.
The Minister said: “From Monday we are going to see a lot of these products and all the people who have been asking what is it that the FMSTI has been doing all these years, at least within the past 6 years many of the products that have found their way into the markers and shops will be exhibited.
“The essence of the Expo is to show that Nigeria is the home of creativity, that we have very brilliant people who can create things and, in the process, these will lead to startup will start small that will move into small enterprise later to enterprise and to medium scale and finally to large scale as we have had such examples.
“We appeal to Nigerians to come and see the creativity inventiveness and innovations of their fellow Nigerians which will be on display for one week.”
Calling for a paradigm shift in use of research findings for academic advancement, he said it has become imperative to use convert those research findings into products and services that will help Nigeria create jobs, stressing that the Ministry has is creating jobs and these are jobs that will last a life time.
He explained that the money the Ministry has been expending on research funding has been coming via extra-budgetary, hard-work and ingenuity, adding that the disbursement of the 0.5% innovation fund is yet to commence.
“First, we must commend President Muhamamadu Buhari for his commitment and interest in making sure that we do continue to do research and innovation with the approval of the funding, knowing that that the best way for the promise that he made to Nigerians that in 10 years as many as 100 million Nigerians will be out of poverty.
“So, we thank him for that commitment but you know that it was the African Union (AU) Heads of state that met 17 years ago and agreed that all African nations should allocate a minimum of 1% of their GDP to Research and Development (R/D). Today, no African nations has achieved that.
Making clarification, on the fund, he said it is important to yo make it clear that the money is not for the Federal Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation alone.
The money, he said is for the STI ecosystem which includes all research institutes, Universities, Polytechnics and the Private sector as long as that entity is involved in research and invention, however, adding that it is the mandate of the ministry to manage and to supervise research and innovation in the country.
He added: “Now, the GDP will involve the States and LGAs and that was why we invited the Commissioners of Science Technology from all the 36 States to come and agree on how this will be done, because the matter will have to go to the National Economic Council (NEC), which is being Chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and all the Governors are members. The Ministry is working hard and presently processing it.”
However, Onu, acknowledged that President Buhari, has made the pronouncement of the approval which is virtually a law and it must be achieved, adding that the framework and process must be followed.
On the disbursement, he said: “We have not gotten to the level where the money is being disbursed but we are confident that we will soon get there because for the past 6 years we have been working very hard to find an extra-budgetary means for funding research and innovation in the country.
“Because all the developed and high-income countries don’t fund research and innovation through budgetary means alone. Some have Science Foundation; others have other different types of arrangement and for the past 6 months we have been working hard and you know it is very easy but we are happy that President Buhari approved the 0.5% and it will be realized.”