The Chairman and Chief Visioner Of Opolo Global, Dr. Segun Aina, OFR, has challenged Nigerian universities to change the narrative of innovation and entrepreneurship by embracing global practices to make the universities sustainable and impact-driven. Aina said this at the 2023 Annual Innovation Week of the University of Port Harcourt.
In the presentation, titled Building a Sustainable Future for Tertiary Institutions through Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Aina underscored the critical role of universities in driving innovation and economic growth. He outlined a comprehensive framework that emphasized several key principles for advancing sustainability in the higher education sector. emphasized the paramount importance of prioritizing research within tertiary institutions. He highlighted that research forms the cornerstone of innovation and entrepreneurship, offering a pathway to create commercially viable products and services. He noted that innovation and entrepreneurship could help the universities record significant result in quality education, decent work and economic well-being, industry, innovation and infrastructure as well as partnerships citing examples universities in the global North that are thriving based on their investment portfolios.
Aina stressed the need for universities to retain and support star faculty researchers identifying them as the driving force behind groundbreaking innovations who can play a pivotal role in the success of technology transfer operations. Dr. Aina further noted that efficient technology transfer operations are instrumental in transforming research outcomes into market-ready products. He said this entails close collaboration with the industry to bridge the gap between the academia and the business world. In concluding this thought, Aina rooted for universities to add a 4th leg of innovation and enterprise to the existing functions of teaching, research and community service.
Aina further challenged universities to embrace the cultivation of a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the academic environment highlighting it as a key element of a sustainable future for tertiary institutions. He enjoined the universities to encourage students and faculty members to think creatively and take entrepreneurial risks that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries. He said universities should be a bustling ground for academic and research entrepreneurs.
Aina equally stressed the significance of forging strong connections between universities, industry, and society. According to him, such partnerships can yield mutually beneficial results, including practical applications for research and opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. In closing the framework, Aina emphasized that Nigerian universities should systematically monitor and transparently disclose the impact of their innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. These outcomes should be showcased to highlight the institution’s contributions to society and the economy.
Dr. Aina, however identified challenges faced by tertiary institutions in Nigeria. These challenges included inadequate funding, inadequate infrastructure and resources, brain drain and incessant strike actions, low remuneration as well as succession challenge.
In response to these challenges, Dr. Aina put forward a series of recommendations. He suggested that universities recalibrate their strategies to ensure sustainability by considering public universities as business. He suggested putting in place that system that accommodate experienced professionals as Professor of Practice. Furthermore, he called for the remodeling of research grant as investment instead of gift. Equally, he challenged the universities to remodel their partnerships with industry to yield more result. He then advocated for a change of promotion criteria with heavy emphasis on IP and venture creation.
In closing the presentation, Aina called upon governments, policymakers, and high-net-worth individuals to actively mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources. He said such collaborative efforts are essential to support the achievement of sustainable development goals and create an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive.