Professor Mahama Duwiejua, Executive Secretary, National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), advised universities to align their overall research objectives with the bigger national goals, especially the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to achieve maximum impact.
In his view, the full benefit of research activities of universities are yet to be fully harnessed to achieve meaningful developments that are linked to the overall objectives of the MDGs in Ghana.
He linked the current gap to the absence of a well defined policy document to prevent the diffused and uncoordinated manner in which current research activities are presently carried out in the country’s universities.
“I know some of our universities have research governance frameworks. I hope you will review these documents and see how they align university research with the bigger national goals”, he said.
Prof. Duwiejua, who was addressing a validation workshop on Governance of University Research within National Innovation System in Ghana, advised that university research objectives be directed at developmental goals of society and not the parochial interest of the researcher.
The workshop was organized by the Association of African Universities (AUU) as part of the methodology of the research, which aims at addressing the challenges of weak structures for administering, coordinating and promoting research among universities to ensure better system of university research and management.
Participants at the workshop included scientists and researchers from the country’s public and private universities.
Prof. Duwiejua said Ghana needed to establish strategic universities as land grant institutions with clear mandates for knowledge and technology transfer and should be made to take active roles in establishing various types of organizations such as business incubators, science parks, technology parks among others to foster entrepreneurship and business development.
He also noted that for universities to play a valuable role in economic development of the society, it was important that they developed common agenda with governments and industry to engender the required high productivity and employment in the country.
Prof. Duwiejua said by this it was important that relevant research governance directed the outcomes of job creation, poverty reduction or disease burden reduction.
He stressed that the threat of climate change and its consequences on the economy, food security, water and biodiversity, required urgent attention from the group.
Prof. Duwiejua indicated that as a component of National Innovation Systems, university research therefore needed to be guided not only to ensure quality and remain within ethical limits, but also be relevant since it was largely funded from scarce public funds.
“I wish to caution that while we should aspire to engage in cutting edge research, the absence of that is not necessarily that cause of our under-development,” he said.
He cited the phenomenal development of Japan and Korea as evidence that the rate of technical change and of economic growth depended on efficient diffusion of knowledge than of being first in the world with radical innovations.
“Today, much knowledge is available at a very low cost, but its accessibility and use depends on the human capacity to process and absorb it. Even if a country’s capacity to produce knowledge is weak, its capacity to access and absorb it determines the pace at which that country develops”, he said.
He said the nation’s universities, therefore, had crucial role in enhancing the country’s human capacity to absorb and use available knowledge at minimal cost.
Prof. Duwiejua further advocated a strong industry-university relationship as a solution to the structural gap that exist between the two sectors and to promote better interaction on the needs of industries and what universities generally offer through their publications and patents.
He noted that priorities of industry and academics should not differ and that the current dichotomy between the two parties creates the situation where research findings of universities, especially in Africa, become more or less tools for personal promotion rather that of economic value.
“This partially explains why Africa has contributed only 0.1 percent of world innovations though its share of scientific publications is 1.8 percent”, he said.
University-Industry relationship, he noted, needed to be encouraged in Africa as other countries like Germany had benefitted tremendously from that alliance.
Prof. Duwiejua said through such partnership, universities could also augment their funding in the forms of research support, cooperative research, knowledge transfer and technology transfer, especially as public source of funding for higher education continues to dwindle.
Dr Godfred Frempong, Project Manager, in an overview of the research, said similar projects were being carried out in four West and Central African countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
He said the research covers four public and two private universities. The private universities should have been in existence for at least four years and should have graduate programmes.
The research also seeks to understand and assess the place and role of universities in the national innovation system and foster better linkages with the other actors to ensure that universities’ researches are of high quality and relevant to the needs of society.