Research is supposed to be a major function of universities and other institutions of higher learning, but this has not been the case in most tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
Research involves creative and systematic investigation that results in breakthroughs that should benefit society at large but the rot in Nigeria’s tertiary education system has manifested in the near total neglect of this critical function of higher institutions of learning, otherwise referred to as Ivory Towers.
Though few private and public universities in the country have committed themselves to some level of research, the University of Lagos (UniLag), under its present Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Temitayo Ogundipe, has made research and innovation its primary focus and is already recording significant successes.
Taking stock, when he marked his second year in office as Vice Chancellor last November ( he became the 12th VC of UniLag on November 11, 2017), Prof. Ogundipe announced that the University had successfully patented 11 inventions within 18 months, with three of them being prototyped.
The breakthroughs include patents for inventions in Marine Science, Pediatrics, Physics, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering and other areas of Medicine, all within two years of his leadership of the first generation institution.
While many of his colleagues heading public tertiary institutions sit around grumbling about insufficient government funding for research, the Professor of Botany revealed that his administration has been able to attract over N7 billion in research grants, including $131,146.00 for Virtual Reality Technology and Mobile Data Collection to Improve Newborn Health Care Delivery.
The passion for research and innovation of Prof. Ogundipe, who earned his B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D degrees from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and a Master’s in Business Administration from University of Lagos, has also led him to institute the Professor Ogundipe Innovation Challenge (POIC) which is aimed at encouraging young academics into research and innovation with cash rewards of up to N3 million sponsored by a front line financial institution in the country.
Agencies, embassies, international organisations and other universities that identify with the seriousness of his leadership in this critical area have been coming forward to support the research efforts in UniLag.
For instance, about 45 scholars have so far benefited from Research Grants/Awards of the Professor Ayo Ogunye Chair in Chemical Engineering while UniLag is partnering with Carleston University, Canada for the creation of 100 intercontinental start-ups.
The Lagos State government has also keyed into his vision by providing a seed fund of N250 million for the Lagos State Science Research & Innovation Council (LASRIC), a 16-member Council which he heads. The LASRIC fund is aimed at making Lagos the hub of innovation and technology in the country with emphasis on the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
This distinguished academic, researcher, author, leader, administrator and motivator is pointing the way forward for his colleagues in Nigeria’s and, indeed, Africa’s Ivory Towers. Research is the way to go if tertiary institutions are to flourish and positively impact society.
He is, by the successes he has recorded so far, also sending a message to governments (state and federal), as well as individuals, private and public organisations (local and international), that research efforts require adequate funding and that no level of grants/awards can be considered too much if breakthroughs that can transform society are to be achieved.
It is equally very important to note that the results of research must be made accessible to the society through mass production, which is where corporate bodies come in. They must embrace the concept of “town and gown,” or the mutually beneficial partnership between the business community and the academia that should result in the commercialization of research breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.
Professor Ogundipe’s example should signal a new beginning of major traffic on this road of research and innovation that has been much neglected and, thankfully, between February 4 and 5, 2020, about 300 scientists will come together at the Multipurpose Hall of the same University of Lagos for the 1st Nigerian Academy of Science, NAS, Scientific Conference with the theme “The Role of Science in Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
It is expected that iron will sharpen iron, that there will be exchange or cross fertilization of ideas and when they rise from the Conference, there will be evidence of increased research activities in universities and other research institutes across the country and the results will impact humanity positively.