When I turn on my radio in the morning (between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.), it is a search for knowledge i.e. information. It is practically impossible to listen to all morning show radio presenters at the same time, so I have picked a few who, I can bet my bottom cedi, will not disappoint me.
These are Bernard Avle (Citi Breakfast Show), Kwame Sefa Kayi (Kokroko on Peace FM) and Kojo Yankson (Super Morning Show on Joy FM). Same for news anchors and commentators, including Evans Mensah and Israel Laryea (Joy fm), Umaru Sanda and Kojo Akoto Boateng (Citi fm), among a few others. I can’t leave out Kweku Baako, Kwesi Pratt and IMANI’s Franklin Cudjoe. Take it from me: you will never encounter these people and come away empty-headed.
I have a (selfish) purpose for this intro. While placing them in my Knowledge Hall of Fame, I have an assignment for them. If science and technology is going to grow this country, it will need advocates whose main duty it will be to devote, at least, 10 minutes twice every week to remind our governments that no country’s economy has ever expanded without an investment in Research and Development (R&D); that there is the need for a conscious policy to link research with industry; that the way to start is the way of Venture Capital Fund for scientists birthed and nurtured through Business Incubators.
Listening to Kwame, Pratt and Prof. Frimpong-Boateng advocate strongly for a linkage between research and industry on Peace FM last Tuesday, I suddenly had a brainwave. Imagine what fruits we would be reaping as a country if the media gave to science, technology and innovation even one-quarter of what it gave to the fight against galamsey!
The reason Ghana is still poor and backward is not the absence of scientific research results but that most of them are still on shelves because the researchers cannot commercialise these technologies into tangible product on large scale.
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In the early 1980s, the Chinese, recognising that they lacked ‘Innovation’, decided that they would not bar products from the West but insisted that those products (e.g. cars, computers, etc.) must be manufactured inside China, and that for a western company to be granted licence to manufacture any goods, it must first establish an R&D unit within China to pass on the knowledge to Chinese scientists.
In 2009, President Obama reminded Americans that “the United States led the world’s economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation. Today, the competition is keener, the challenge is tougher, and that is why innovation is more important than ever.”
So, a few years ago, the National Science Foundation of America created the Innovation Corps Programme which provides university researchers with up to US$50,000 to go through a programme called the Lean Launchpad, as a way to get researchers to think early on practical application of their research for commercialisation.
A few months before he died, Professor Francis Allotey, speaking as President of the African Institute for Mathematics and Science, recounted that in the 1970s, Ghana was quite ahead in scientific innovations than most Asian countries, saying, “Ghana started producing fridges and electronic equipment before South Korea’s Samsung was established.
“Now... South Korea is the world’s leading producer of electronics and refrigerator and consumer goods. The reason is simply that South Korea invested a lot in Science Technology and Innovation (STI).”
On that same platform, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, speaking as minister responsible for science and innovation, stated a universal fact that “the poverty gap is a technology gap; the hunger gap is a technology gap.”
Then came the big news. Speaking at the Koforidua All Nations University last year, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced his government’s commitment to increase the funding for research and development (R&D) to one per cent of GDP.
I don’t know if that has become a reality. I will seek out the minister for an answer.
For now, I am proud to be the one to deliver to Pratt, Kwame and Prof. the answer to the issue over which they nearly shed tears in the Peace FM studio last Tuesday.
The CSIR is in the process of establishing Business Incubation Centres in the 10 regions of Ghana. They are part of a grand scheme for innovation which will start with a Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Accra to encourage and facilitate the development and marketing of research technologies. It will offer short courses not exceeding six weeks.
To Pratt, Kwame and Prof., I have much bigger news - a partnership struck between the CSIR and the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF). Among their plans is the floating of an Innovation Venture Capital Fund that will invest in seed and early start-ups.
With the CSIR providing the technical backstopping, the training of local entrepreneurs on CSIR technologies and with the PEF fostering market linkages and commercialisation of research results, the future has just begun.
An MoU to this effect was signed in January 2018.
I have one worry, though. Among the courses to be taught at the Centre are Event Organisation and Workshop Facilitation. What for, I ask? Is it to ensure income through guaranteed enrolment and payment of school fees? Remember the polytechnics and KNUST where today students offering non-core science courses such as Marketing, languages are feared to be outnumbering those offering the core sciences.