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Experts urge intervention for Nigeria’s fragile innovation system

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National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM) has stressed the need to strengthen Nigeria’s innovation system for economic development and sustainability, while canvassing huge investment in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).
  
NACETEM’s 2020 National Business Innovation Survey, undertaken to measure the state of innovation in Nigeria’s manufacturing and service sectors, showed the country has a weak national innovation system.
  
Director-General of the Centre, Prof. Okechukwu Ukwoma, argued that science and technology can only have a meaningful impact on the socio-economic transformation of countries if it influences development processes and births new products in the market.
  
Ukwoma added that the experience of successful developing countries shows that integrating STI policies into the national development strategies and enacting institutional reforms offer the pathway for increased productivity and firm competitiveness.
  

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He identified weak absorptive capacity of firms to identify, acquire and adapt to foreign innovations; weak industry-academia linkage; inability to refocus foreign direct investment and technology transfer to stimulate innovation; limited access of firms to skilled workers; weak technology-related infrastructure and inadequate intellectual property rights regimes as hindrances to the implementation of innovations.
  
He, therefore, called for policies to address these issues, expressing optimism that this would support a faster economic growth and job creation.
  
“One of the ways this can be tackled is by regularly developing indicators on a time series basis with the aim of assisting in evaluating the performance of the innovation system in Nigeria, track progress and make projections for the future trajectory of the system. This will assist in strategic planning and monitoring the state of innovativeness and competitiveness of Nigerian firms.”
 
Assistant Director, Research, NACETEM, Dr. Abiodun Egbetokun, urged the state government to drive and address the gap in innovation.
  
“If state governments have their own Ministry of Science and Technology, it becomes easier for them to work with the Federal Government, because the states are closer to the people. It is easier to drive the development effort of the Federal Government down to the grassroots.
  
“Another one is strengthening what we call the local innovation system. There are several of these all over the place. For instance, in Osun State we have people who make tie and dye. These are local innovation systems that have existed for many years and all of them hold a lot of unique knowledge. There is a way the government can support them through funding, infrastructure, access to market, and public procurement to ensure that these kinds of activities are sustained.”

He added that the benefit of the government in having a robust innovation is productivity in both the formal and informal sectors.
 
“Productivity in the private sector helps the government to solve the problem of unemployment. For instance, we place a lot of emphasis on the formal sector, which is good because they are the most productive. But the informal sector employs nearly 80 per cent while the formal sector employs 20 per cent but the earnings from the formal sector is about 70 per cent higher than that of the informal sector. So, we cannot elevate one above the other. The gains we get from one service the other. Government benefits because if we strengthen the informal sector we get to mop up a lot of unemployment and if we strengthen the formal sector, we get to become more productive as an economy.”
 
On his part, Assistant Director, Planning, NACETEM, David Adeyeye, said the objective of the survey was to assist the government to make policies that will help companies to be more competitive, introduce new products, and improve on their services.
 
He urged the government to invest in Information Technology, energy and ensure adequate infrastructure especially in transportation by providing good roads.

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