The attention of the Management of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has been drawn to reports on some media platforms crediting the Executive Secretary of National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Prof. Idris Muhammad Bugaje as flaying the Fund’s investments in Research and Development.
In the said reports, the NBTE boss was quoted during the commissioning of NBTE Research and Development Innovation Exhibition Hall recently in Kaduna as calling for a paradigm shift by allowing polytechnics to key into the research and development project of TETFund to end the era of university research ending in journal publications.
In view of the vantage position of Prof. Bugaje as a member of the Board of Trustees of TETFund, representing the NBTE, specifically, Polytechnics in Nigeria, we are of the opinion that it is likely that the ES NBTE may have been quoted out of context, since NBTE should not be seen to publicly attack Universities and TETFund in an area of their priority and competence.
However, it may suffice to restate for the avoidance of doubt that TETFund’s R&D Grants come under two platforms, namely the Institution Based Research (IBR) and the National Research Fund (NRF); and both grants are open to the three categories of the Fund’s beneficiary institutions viz. Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of education.
To demonstrate the recognition of the polytechnic sector as a critical stakeholder in the R&D and Innovation chain, the Fund only recently established six Centres of Excellence in six Federal polytechnics alongside 6 others in six Federal colleges of education across the six geopolitical zones, in addition to the 12 existing ones in universities across the country, with the aim of supporting strategic and application-oriented research and expertise with potential industrial applications, among others.
As a follow-up, the Fund also organized a capacity building workshop for administrators of the Centres of Excellence in January 2022, where Prof. Bugaje commended the efforts of Prof. Bogoro for his passion for the institutionalization of Research and Development in Nigeria, adding that his name would be written in gold in the country’s academic community.
In furtherance of the Fund’s recognition of polytechnics as major players in the country’s drive for technological development, the Fund also recently in Abuja, held the first phase of a capacity building workshop for public polytechnics with the theme: “Improving Skills Development in Nigerian Polytechnics for Economic Growth, Entrepreneurship and Social Inclusion,” with the second phase scheduled to hold in Lagos this February.
On the call to depart from the era of conducting research only for journal publication, it is on record that the Executive Secretary of TETFund had decried the practice at several public fora in the past, charging academics to carry out research works that would translate into innovation and products.
The paradigm shift, therefore, started long at TETFund with Prof. Bogoro advocating for problem-solving research, geared towards making Nigeria globally competitive.
We use this opportunity to also inform Nigerians that the recently enhanced Funding of Research by TETFund through deepening of research and institutionalization of R&D for both Universities and Polytechnics has started yielding results. An instance is the TETFund funded National Research Fund (NRF) grant in respect of Vaccine production, drug development and gene sequencing in up to 3 Universities which has secured World Health Organization (WHO) certification for advancement to the next stage of their research work.
Similarly, only a few days ago, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede in Imo State displayed an Electric Vehicle manufactured through innovative and productive research supported by TETFund.
It is also a fact that TETFund is massively supporting Airforce Institute of Technology (AFIT) Kaduna, to strengthen their product development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and related technologies.
We hope neighboring polytechnics will take advantage of the visible innovative work at AFIT that will encourage TETFund to support them, including the transformation of “PANTEKA” artisanal village in Kaduna to an entrepreneurial Hub.
Finally it is imperative to state that the adoption of the Triple Helix Model by the Fund, partnerships with Research Institutes and non-state actors, and maintenance of close working relationships with the Regulatory Agencies, NUC, NBTE and NCCE, are all geared towards making our investments in R&D transform into products, patents and innovations capable of ultimately making Nigeria technologically and economically viable.
We shall, therefore, continue to work with all stakeholders for the greater interest of Nigeria.