Commercialising research and innovation

SHARE   |   Thursday, 04 July 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Commercialising research and innovation
 
 
BIH’s Director of Innovation and Technology, Dr Budzanani Tacheba dissects the value
of innovation in driving economic growth. He points to the road Botswana should
urgently traverse to quickly turn research and innovation to bankable assets.
With the impending
Fourth Industrial
Revolution,
Botswana is
making strides in
the research and
innovation space to ensure a seamless
transformation into this new era. Botswana
Innovation Hub’s Director of Innovation
and Technology, Dr. Budzanani Tacheba
believes there remains a huge opportunity
to harness the powerful role of research
and innovation in entrepreneurship
development.
According to the World Economic Forum
(WEF) under its Global Competitiveness
Report, Botswana is on transition from
factor driven to an efficiency driven
economy on a 3-stage development
analogy with 3 being on innovation driven
economy. This is due to the fact that
the country’s economy remains largely
resource-based with the mining sector
contributing hugely to the Gross Domestic
Product (GDP).
Dr. Tacheba reckons that the country
can turn its fortunes around by investing
in the commercialisation of research
and innovation. This, he believes, can be
achieved by revolutionising the education
system, which was adopted through
colonial systems to produce work-oriented
graduates who in turn face the challenge of
unemployment.
Instead he calls for transitioning
research-intensive universities where
professors of practice, drive the
commoditization of knowledge and allow
universities to be research intensive and
eventually entrepreneurial and be the
solution to making research and innovation
a viable economic diversification tool. The
approach will lead to adoption of research
and innovation outputs as contributors to
the economic growth.
PROFESSORS OF PRACTICE
Professors of practice are industry
practitioners who bring the practical aspect
of studying to the forefront instead of the
theoretical. The model ensures that the
learners don’t just do research, but they are
introduced to a research and development
that takes the research from the paper
to a tangible product or service. It is his
staunch belief that universities need to be
credible centres of research for the growth
of the entrepreneurial sector. “We have to
take advantage of the benefits of research
and the subsequent commercialisation of
high impact research outputs,” he adds,
continuing that new measures should be
adopted to allow resources for innovators
and researchers. He strongly believes that
a lot of other countries in Africa, Botswana
included, are stuck with educational
institutions that are yet to become centres
of research and innovation where theories
are tested and products are made and put
out into the market. Despite attesting to
the lack of progress in the past five years,
Dr. Tacheba is hopeful that the instruments
in place such as BIH and local financing
bodies understand the mammoth task of
capturing the research and innovation value
chain.
“It’s a catch-up game as countries ahead
of us will keep moving up,” he highlights.
He also points to development research where applied research outputs are
turned into tangible products that land
themselves into the market as ready to
consume products as one of the solutions.
Dr. Tacheba contends that the many
opportunities presented by early stage
prototypes make it easier to formulate
pre-commercial prototypes that meet the
needs of the collective society. Speaking
to the Botswana National Research
Science, Technology and Innovation Policy
unveiled in 2011, he states that it was never
implemented holistically because there was
a realisation that it needed special ethos
and agencies to aid in its implementation.
“The policy lays special emphasis on
industries that will drive the economy once
implemented. These are key industries that
will drive the economy from a resourcebased
to knowledge-based one,” he
reckons.
BIH was specifically founded to bridge
the gap to the commercialisation of
intellectual property, emanating from
innovation and currently administers
Botswana Innovation Fund to develop an
ecosystem and framework to support the
commercialisation of research outputs and
innovation.
INNOVATION FUNDING
The fund has so far financed seven
projects to the tune of P5.6 million and is
looking to spend another P19 million for
at least another eight projects with up
to P2 million each. The funds are strictly
for innovation driven enterprises that are
expected to disperse the money towards
prototyping, product quality testing as well as further refinement of working prototype.
Botswana’s closeness to somewhat
self-sufficient neighbouring countries
is the reason she did not see the need
for industrial development early on as
most commodities where imported.
The recognition that industrialisation
is one of the answers to the problem of
unemployment in the country further
cements the importance of there being a
robust research and innovation platform for
the manufacturing of local products.
The Botswana National Research
Science, Technology and Innovation Policy’s
proposed areas of research cover several
sectors including health, the service
industry, eco and cultural tourism, the
software industry, manufacturing, mining,
water, energy agriculture, media, education
and human resource development, housing
and construction as well as transport
and logistics. It contains four main policy interventions namely the introduction
of a Mission-focused Programme, the
establishment of Centres of Excellence,
the stimulation of private sector research
through the introduction of an Innovation
Fund and research tax incentives, and the
improved integration of Line Function
research within the overall national system
of innovation.
The Mission-focused Programme
would support long term and
multidisciplinary research within the
themes of ecosystems, processing and
mining, manufacturing, engineering and
infrastructure, geomatics and biosciences.
To this end Botswana Innovation Hub has
established partnerships that drive new
products development programmes in
Biosciences (Southern Africa Innovation
Support Programme), Information and
Communications Technology (Microsoft
Apps Factory) among others.



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