Minister of Science and Technology, Prof Ita Okon Bassey Ewa
By Emmanuel Ugwu
The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) has taken its dragnet to the South East zone in continuation of its search for outstanding innovators under the framework of the National System of Innovation (NSI) developed by the ministry.
Speaking at a two-day stakeholders workshop/exhibition which ended Saturday at Aba, Minister of Science and Technology, Prof Ita Okon Bassey Ewa, said that innovation was critical to development in every culture hence Nigeria was in dire need of a home grown innovative strategy.
“It is important and expedient to craft an indigenous model of development suited to Nigerian needs and challenges,” he said, adding that the NSI framework was expected to evolve a strategy that would engender innovation right from the grassroots to the federal levels.
To bring out the best in local innovations, the minister said that FMST has already commenced the assessment process which kicked off in Kaduna before moving to Aba with Lagos as the next port of call. The minister, whose keynote address was delivered by Mr. A.A Talabi, a director in FMST, said the best innovator would be rewarded with a cash prize of N1 million after satisfying the criteria of ingenuity, and applicability to real industry problems prevalent in the Nigerian environment.
In addition, the local innovations are expected to have the quality of mass production and commercialisation as well as novelty and originality of the research output.
Prof Ewa acknowledged the nation needed both local and international collaboration in order to attain the goals of the NSI, noting that FMST was already partnering with the ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNESCO, World Bank, British Council and other development partners.
In his address, the permanent secretary, FMST, Mrs. Rabi Shuaibu Jimeta, explained that a robust NSI “is the pillar to drive modern development and progress especially in a developing nation like Nigeria” as the global situation makes it impossible for any nation to prosper without a viable NSI.
She said that the exhibition component of the workshop was necessary as the products of research and development (R&D) would be assessed by accomplished entrepreneurs and academics to pick the best innovator/inventor from Aba zone who would go on to compete with the best from other zones at the grand finale in Lagos.
With the calibre of participants at the workshop, which include accomplished entrepreneurs, researchers, intellectuals and academics, Mrs. Jimeta noted that the platform to be created “will serve as a veritable tool for facilitating public private partnership and interaction in R&D and commercialisation of its outputs.
Rector of Abia State Polytechnic, Elder Allwell Onukaogu warned against distortion of the nation’s policy on science and technology, saying that a policy that tends to give the impression that everybody should be a scientist was untenable.
He said that what government should rather do was to create the enabling environment for students to realize their potentials in their areas of talent and interest as “effective scientists are never the products of educational conscription”.