Tuesday, 3rd October 2023
<To guardian.ng

How TETFund’s initiatives solve problems via innovation

By Guardian Nigeria
08 June 2023   |   4:43 am
Nigerian tertiary institutions, especially those owned by government have over time, been blamed for inability to proffer solutions to the nation’s numerous challenges through research.

The Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny Echono, addressing the closing ceremony of the workshop

Nigerian tertiary institutions, especially those owned by government have over time, been blamed for inability to proffer solutions to the nation’s numerous challenges through research. On the other hand, tertiary institutions have also identified lack of necessary infrastructure and inadequate research funding as basic issues militating against their desires to be productive.  

Yet, for many Nigerians, including the Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) Arc. Sonny Echono, resilient infrastructures, technological advancement, improvement of engineering facilities, problem solving and demand driven research remain a mirage until there is appropriate synergy between academia and industries.

To walk his talk, Echono immediately on assumption of office, expressed commitment to partnering with the private sector, especially in the areas of research and innovations to reposition tertiary institution for results. One of such efforts was the partnership with Innov8 Hub, an innovation startup- driven organisation. The aim was to make innovative opportunities accessible to academics in public tertiary institutions.
Less than one year into the launch of the partnership, four prototype innovations have been developed by Nigerian researchers to address the challenges of hunger, poverty, quality education, responsible consumption and production in the country.

The prototypes were developed by lecturers from public higher institutions, under the Research for Impact (R4i), an initiative of TETFund under Arc. Echono. The lecturers, numbering 18 were selected to participate in the initiative. They were further grouped into four teams that developed prototypes of their innovative solutions to the country’s challenges.
At the unveiling of the innovations in Abuja recently, it was disclosed that Team One, tagged, Responsible Consumption and Production, succeeded in designing a smart grain storage using an approach that prevents pest infestation of stored grains. The goal is to keep the grains safe for consumption while they last. Recall that this has been one of farmers’ major challenges, with several economic and health implications.

“To preserve grains from the harvest season to another, farmers have often resorted to the use of chemicals which researches have discovered to constitute health hazard to consumers. Lack of storage facilities has also been responsible for the hike in prices of agricultural products that are out of season.

So, this is a welcome development. I congratulate TETFund and Nigerian tertiary institutions for this innovation. I hope it is sustained and made available to those who need it so that we can mitigate some of the health challenges resulting from eating contaminated foods”, a source at the unveiling ceremony said.
Team Two of the research group worked on a prototype called ‘No Poverty’. The group designed a Float House called Gimbaliya. The float is constructed with low density materials that enables it to float on water.
Team Three worked towards eliminating hunger in the country. Their product – Zero Hunger was an automated ultrasonic solar-powered sprayer and broad-spectrum bio-pesticides for control of pests in an eco-friendly manner. This product was anchored on Sustainable Development Goal number 2, which focuses on ending hunger and improving access to food; ending all forms of malnutrition; agricultural productivity; sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. Others are genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals; investments, research and technology.

Team Four worked on the topic, Quality Education. It designed an innovation called E-Access, which is a mobile application that caters for lecturers who develop lecture materials. It will equally assist students in need of lecture materials.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the workshop, Echono encouraged the 18 participants drawn from various tertiary institutions across the country to be change agents when they return to their various institutions. He charged them to make the right contributions and ensure that education becomes impactful to both the students and the nation at large.
The Executive Secretary also tasked the participants to set personal goals with their newly acquired knowledge and ignore the noise around them in order to excel in whatever they do. According to him, the nation must move from the mindset that God will give them everything to citizens making contributions towards greatness.
He said: “The Research for Impact Initiative is a logical response to our desire to solve societal problems by addressing some of the challenges we currently face in our country in terms of generating revenue.
“Our country is going through very difficult times; we have one of the highest population growth rate in the world and there are projections that in few years from now, we will actually become third in the world in terms of population.
“While many see this as a blessing, some of us also know that if we do not prepare our population and give them the tools to survive and compete, we have a time bomb in our hands because our landmark is not going to increase, we are going to have challenges.”

The chief facilitator for R4i workshop, Dr. Obichi Obiajunwa, was elated at the outcome of the two-week intensive training in innovation and prototype development.
According to him, it was an endeavour that has undoubtedly, left an indelible mark on every participant. Obiajunwa maintained that innovation remains the lifeblood of progress for any nation, and driving force that propels societies forward, enabling them to tackle complex challenges and create a better world.
He said: “As lecturers, you play a crucial role in shaping the minds of future generations, and your ability to infuse innovation into your teaching and research will have a profound impact for any on the development of our nation.
“The knowledge and skills you have acquired in this workshop will not only enhance your individual abilities but also enrich the academic landscape of your respective universities. The prototypes that you have developed throughout this workshop are a testament to your creativity and problem-solving prowess. Each idea represents a spark of inspirational potential solution to a pressing societal issue.
“These prototypes have the power to transform lives, to drive sustainable development, and to contribute to the well-being of our communities.”
Obiajunwa further commended the leadership of TETFund for the invaluable support and guidance provided towards fostering innovation and research excellence in the country.

In this article