In Nigeria today, there are thousands of research and development results emanating from our knowledge institutions which have remained on the shelf for years and may remain there forever.
Of this number, hundreds are ready for commercialization but there exists a gap between these research results and the companies that should pick them up for use or commercialization.
Some research products are not relevant to the operations of the industries while some off-takers are not aware of the existence of important R&D results, reasons being that there was no
collaboration between the academia and industry for researchers to know the challenge of the industry and channel their research efforts towards solving such.
The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) has stepped in to bridge this gap through various initiatives. NOTAP, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was established by Decree No 82 of 1992 (now amended) to among other things, regulate the inflow of foreign technology and at the same time, encourage the development of indigenous technologies.
The Director General of NOTAP, Dr. Dan-Azumi Ibrahim in an interview said the Office is engaging with multi-national organisations in Nigeria to fund researches that will have definite impact on the economy.
“In order to bring about the needed academia-industry linkage to facilitate mutual relationship for the overall socio-economic development of our nation, NOTAP instituted NOTAP- Industry Technology Transfer Fellowship (NITTF),” he said.
“This is a voluntary contribution by the private sectors, as part of the corporate social responsibility, to provide scholarship to talented Nigerians pursuing Doctorate studies in Nigerian Universities.”
He said the project started in July 2015 after he assumed office as the helmsman of NOTAP with 5 companies providing scholarship to 5 researchers.
“This is what we believe we can do to move this country forward. Most multi-nationals conduct their research abroad and when we asked them why their researches were not carried out in Nigeria, they said there were no well equipped laboratories to undertake such research”.
He said that as a country that was desirous of developing technologically, NOTAP engaged the companies to upgrade some laboratories to the standard that their researches could be carried out in Nigeria.”
These researchers are expected to undertake a study and come up with a product that is in line with the operations of the sponsoring companies. For example, in the first batch, Friesland
Campina funded an ongoing research at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), Yola on ‘Investigation into the factors limiting the transition of traditional pastoralists to modern dairy industry’ while Julius Berger is funding the research on ‘Thermal Modelling and Simulation of a Wood Drying Machine Kiln’ at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka.
Also the research ‘Production, Optimization and Characterization of Wheat, Millet and Cassava flour based noodles’ being funded by PRIMA-DUFIL and the ‘ Production,
Nutrient Composition and Shell Stability of Complimentary Foods from Mixtures of Cereal-Legume Flour Blends’ funded by NESTLE Plc both at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Airtel Nigeria funded the research on ‘Information Technology Security Threats, Perception and Management in Nigeria’ going on at the University of Ilorin. As at date the research on ‘
Production, Nutrient Composition and Shell Stability of Complimentary Foods from Mixtures of Cereal-Legume Flour Blends’ is completed and very soon NESTLE PLC may be introducing to the market, cereals for babies weaned from breast milk to sustain them.
In 2018 more companies declared interest to undertake the sponsoring of additional 10 researches at various institutions across Nigeria in different fields of study based on peculiar needs of the sponsoring industry. The companies are: PZ Nigeria Plc; Procter and Gamble; FCWAMCO, PROOMASIDOR, Dufil and Prima Foods LTD; CAPL and Nigerian Breweries Plc.
The Director General said NOTAP is successfully fostering the synergy between researchers and the industries and without this, most research results will remain on the shelf.
Asides the research sponsorship, Dr. Ibrahim said that NOTAP also encouraged companies to assist in providing necessary research facilities to enhance quality research activities.
To this end, NOTAP secured the partnership of PZ Cussons Nigeria Limited to upgrade three chemical laboratories from 2016 to 2017 at the total cost of N115 million.
The laboratories are located at: National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria; Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), Yola and the University of Calabar Chemical laboratory.
According to the Director General, NOTAP is doing all these to strengthen the bond between the academia and the industries. The on – the – spot assessment of some of these laboratories before the upgrade indicated that the equipments are in deplorable conditions and some not fully equipped. This is the reason some academic institutions have alternative to practical in their curriculum since they are not properly equipped for intensive practical lessons.
He said laboratories are key to research and that is why the PZ Cussons Nigeria Limited had in 2018, in partnership with NOTAP undertook to upgrade additional 6 laboratories within a three year period, completing two annually.
He said that the upgrading of these laboratories will cost PZ the sum of N360 million. Under this arrangement, laboratories in Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ebonyi state and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi were upgraded.
The impacts of these laboratories are already being felt in the
institutions. In Ndufu Alike, the lab upgrade facilitated the securing accreditation of some courses by the National Universities Commission while in Bauchi, with the discovery of millions of barrels of crude oil in the north-east, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is partnering the University’s Chemical laboratory for some chemical analysis. PZ also plans to embark on joint research with the institutions which benefitted from the laboratory upgrades.
One of the major challenges slowing down the process of commercializing research results in the country is the non-patenting of the innovations and inventions. Some research
results are stolen once they are published because the intellectual property of the researcher is not protected.
In order to inculcate the culture of Intellectual Property protections on Nigerians, between 2015 and date, NOTAP assisted 187 researchers to patent their inventions and innovations. NOTAP assists researchers in filling the necessary application forms, conduct patent search, write the claims, send requests/application to patent registry, pay the patenting fees and make necessary follow to get the patent certificate out at
no cost to the researcher.
“Based on the awareness and success recorded over the years, more requests for patent are coming to NOTAP,” he said. “If you don’t patent, you can’t commercialize. No investor can invest on a research result that is not patented no matter how
attractive such invention may look.”
Dr. Ibrahim listed some outstanding research results waiting for commercialization to include: the Vaccine against typhoid fever which can prevent the occurrence of typhoid fever for five years; Vaccine against snake bite which when taken, snake bite will have no effect on the victim; and there is also the vaccine against ulcer developed by a researcher which when taken once by an ulcer patient, the ulcer is cured permanently.
He said international bodies are interested but Nigeria
is treading with caution.
As NOTAP continues to strengthen the research sector, its activities are gradually making notable contributions to the nation’s economy.
The Director General said that through the registration of technology transfer agreements between 2015 and 2018 alone, the Office saved the sum of N79.69 billion which would have gone out of the country as capital flight.
In the light of the above, NOTAP was recognized by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, PEBEC, chaired by the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo and given an award as the most improved MDA in transparent service delivery in 2019.