Whether or not investment in research will result in competitiveness, growth, job creation and quality of life is increasingly being determined by the relationship between science and industry. Indeed, meeting the complex needs of modern human populations requires industry and businesses to rely more on scientific researchers to develop new solutions.
In nations where science and industry collaborate effectively, the results are innovative developments that have benefited the society at large. And the academic community has been playing a key role in forging such mutually beneficial relations between scientists and businesses.
In most developing nations, academia is yet to seize the opportunity of playing the required catalytic role in facilitating a practical science industry partnership, which can maximise the full potential of such a relationship for sustainable national development.
Therefore, Ghana’s academia has been urged to deepen its relations with industry to make the country’s industrial sector more competitive in the global environment. The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Robert Ahomka-Lindsay, made the call from the perspective, saying that a mutual relation between academia and industry would enable science play its lead role in the country’s quest for industrial transformation.
He was launching the 2018 Annual Science and Development Platform organised by the College for Basic Applied Sciences (CBAS), of the University of Ghana, Legon. The three-day event, which took place from April 25 to 27, 2018 at the Centre for African Wetlands, Legon, had “Science for Development: Ghana asks, Legon answers” as its theme. It also provided a forum for the College to interact with and initiate collaborative ventures with industry and also serve as an occasion for Industry to dialogue with members of the CBAS Faculty for solutions.
Mr. Ahomka-Lindsay spoke about Ghana’s agenda for industrial development and expectations from the scientific community. He indicated that this year’s Annual Platform fitted into government’s Industrial Transformational Agenda, with initiatives designed for high-level scientific and industrial deliberations on how to successfully implement the identified initiatives.
The initiatives include building the competitiveness of existing local industries by facilitating their access to medium and long term financing dubbed “Stimulus Package;” implementing the “One District One Factory,” initiative aimed at bringing industrialisation to the doorsteps of the people; introducing Strategic Anchor Industries to serve as new growth poles for the Ghanaian economy; and establishing regional industrial parks and special economic zones.
The Trade and Industry Deputy Minister said progress has been made in implementing some of the initiatives like the Stimulus Package and One District One Factory. He however admitted that “progress has mainly been in the inception phases” and opinioned that it will require the support of academia and industry to accelerate the process of industrial transformation for the country. “Your Platform could serve as one of the avenues … to support the Industrial Transformational Agenda,” he stated.
Mr. Ahomka-Lindsay added that as part of the Agenda’s implementation process, “invitation will be extended to relevant research and tertiary institutions that have specific roles to play… to provide tailor-made solutions to specific research requirements.”
But even before this agenda, Ghana’s universities had been positioning themselves to develop world class scientists who would meet national and global development needs. And this stance is reflected in their Strategic Plans.
For instance, in its 2014-2024 Strategic Plan, the University of Ghana’s first strategic priority is “to create a vibrant intellectual climate that stimulates relevant cutting edge research and community engagement.” And in the words of the Provost of the CBAS, Prof. Daniel Asiedu, “the University intends to make research central in its transformation process and ultimately strengthen its impact and visibility internationally.”
He explained that, to realise this agenda, the CBAS had to create an enabling environment to encourage the publication of research papers in journals of international importance, increase the number of multidisciplinary teams and also increase research fundraising by the collage. Prof. Asiedu said: “It is to meet some of these needs that the CBAS Science and Development Platform was established.”
He added that, through the Platform, “the College is fulfilling one of its fundamental objectives of being relevant to the socio-economic needs of the nation and also becoming a Centre for cutting edge research globally.” Additionally, the College will also be fulfilling its role as an academic institution helping Ghana fulfil her development agenda.
The Director of the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IASTs), Prof. George Oduro Nkansah delivered a presentation on IASTs Industry-Academia Interactions: The tool for addressing Ghana’s industrial challenges. He noted that while the university has expanded its engagement with industry, government and local communities, “there is a noticeable gap in moving the ideas and concepts generated through these interactions to the next level of testing and development.”
In order to address this gap, Prof. Nkansah said: “IAST has developed mechanisms of engagement that supports the translation of theoretical concepts into practical solutions for industry.” To this end, one of the institute’s strategies, aimed specifically at reducing the burden of graduate unemployment, is to build the capacity of students with the relevant skills for nation building.
Later in an interview, the Chairperson of the CBAS Research Board, Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, said: “The essence of the Platform is to encourage all researchers in Ghana to open up to industry, so that their findings can be used for national development.”
Touching on the membership of the Platform, she said “all of industry and other scientific organisations are free to join.”
The opening and initial plenary session, was followed by a series of nine thematic sessions on food and nutrition; computing and digital systems applications; mathematics and statistical application; agricultural sciences; and earth science. The others were physical and biomedical science; environmental science; biological science and material research and industrial applications.
Under each of these thematic areas, presentations were made on various topics that highlighted the essential building blocks, required to foster the desired industrial transformation for accelerated national development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This year’s Annual Science and Development Platform underscored the fact that the academic community has become more aware of the potential of their science for industrial transformation.
It further brought to the fore the need for business people and scientists to work together to appreciate each other’s priorities, and to attain the benefits of closer collaboration such as improving innovation in research to respond appropriately to national needs.
By Ama Kudom-Agyemang