Built environment experts have bemoaned the country’s low investment in technical research and development of machines and equipment for the country’s industries to operate optimally, saying it constitutes a major hindrance to the nation’s economic growth and general development.
They noted that there was a direct positive connection between investment in technical research and development and the level of economic growth, as technical innovation remains the driver of prosperity and sustainable development in nations across the world.
The Director, Research and Development, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Mr. AbdulWahab Ogunbiyi, who spoke at a luncheon organised by the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers, NiMechE, in Lagos, with the theme: Technical Innovation, Research and Development, a Tool to Industrialisation and Economic Growth, noted that the country had people with skills to develop its industries but the operating environment had almost killed their knowledge and morale.
Ogunbiyi said the government should declare a state of emergency on technical research and development in all research centres, institutions, ministries, departments and agencies concerned in order to accelerate industrial and economic growth and reduce poverty in the country, insisting that the country was lagging behind in catching up with industrialised nations as it had the highest products rejection as exports.
According to him: “Nigeria is unable to compete favourably in the global knowledge-driven economy even within Africa and so, global funds could not be attracted to empower the citizens of the country to drive away poverty.
“The right kind of machines and plants can only come from technical innovation, research and development carried out by trained Nigerians to bring about new industries, products and services to generate new wealth from global funds, earned through non-oil goods and services produced.” He stated that as of today, technical innovation remained very low and far from technological frontiers of any nation at a global level.
He said: “There are many institutions in Nigeria including universities for technical innovation but they concentrate on assessment and analysis of one process or the other while the real innovation are left in the hands of ill-trained people. “In achieving the required volume and standard of machines and plants that can turn local processes, operations and productions into products and services that create new industries, the government needs to pursue technical innovation with deliberate intention and sincere commitment to create a true foundation for technology diffusion, transfer and development.”
He said engineers in MDAs should also be exposed to actual engineering and construction works awarded to contractors to help them gain experience to take up professional challenges.
The NiMechE’s National Chairman, Robinson Elijah, said the way forward was for the country to invest more in industrialisation based on innovation, research and development, without which the economy may not grow as rapidly as it should. Elijah, who spoke through the Membership Services Secretary of NiMechE, AbdulGaniyu Tiamiyu, said Nigeria had remained behind because it was not industrialised. He added: “A country that is not industrialised will remain behind.
Nigeria is currently rated among the third world countries, which should not be, we should be among the developed nations of the world considering our size and the human resources we have.
“There are so many challenges in the world today, and the way things are done now is no longer the way they used to be, we need to move ahead like other nations.”
Elijah stated that collaboration among engineers and other professionals with technical skills would help to bridge the needed gap and set the pace for the country’s industrialisation. “Collaboration is the way to go on the part of the stakeholders. Engineering is diverse so there is need for collaboration to complement the various skills available.
We need synergy. Many institutions have done research but there is no synergy among them, they need it to succeed,” he said. The chairman of NiMechE, Lagos chapter, Segun Fadeyi, who hosted the programme, said the topic was timely and would help professionals to become more effective in contributing to the country’s economic growth.