Tuesday, October 02, 2018 /07:50PM /by Kufre Ekanem*
Download Presentation Here - Global Perspectives On Collaborations & Partnerships Between Universities & Industries – An Advisory Framework For Nigeria
GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON COLLABORATIONS AND PARTNERSHIPS BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES AND INDUSTRIES, AN ADVISORY FRAMEWORK FOR NIGERIA – A LECTURE BY KUFRE EKANEM, CORPORATE AFFAIRS ADVISER, NIGERIAN BREWERIES PLC AT THE 1ST DISTINGUISHED LECTURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, AKURE, NIGERIA
Let me start by saying what a humbling pleasure it is for me to be invited to address your august assembly at Nigeria’s premier University of Technology, the Federal University of Technology, Akure. Let me confess that I would not have been here delivering this lecture if not for the doggedness of one man who just refused to accept my disingenuous attempts at refusing the invitation to share my thoughts on a topic that I am most passionate about and which has so much possibility for our country’s competitiveness if harnessed properly. I thank the Vice Chancellor, the leadership of FUTA and the Director of the International Strategy Office, Prof Thomas Ofuya. I thank you all in the room for coming to hear me.
I will like to state upfront that I am not a professor. Some friend of mine who has been invited here but whose identity I shall protect disagrees. He even went to the naughty extent of averring that if I come here and speak my truth the way I know it and impress you all, then this session alone can make me a professor. I told him it wasn’t possible but his logic seemed so inviting that I have to share it with you. He said if someone who confesses can be a confessor and someone who assesses is an assessor, then all I need to do is to profess my thoughts convincingly today. After all, someone who professes should be a … professor! For the records, I do not agree with him. But I will like to profess the following as my central message this morning: the competiveness, productivity, growth and reputation of Nigeria in the comity of nations will be tremendously accelerated if we followed the proven track and ensured the upscaling of collaboration and jointimpact between the academia and industry.
I will state my perspectives presently but first let us clarify the subject matter by defining the university and industry in this context. University is an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees. Universities develop knowledge through scholarship and research, and transmit such knowledge through instruction, and subsequent application through private/or public service. Universities have an important role to play in the development of any nation and basically should be linked to industries and government. They help a nation in giving it economic vitality, scientific prowess, cultural and social consciousness and global competitiveness, through scholarship, research and innovation. They should therefore be positioned as strategic assets in innovation and economic competencies and as problem solvers for socio-economic issues affecting their countries.
Industry in this context refers to the collection of corporate organizations with interrelated activities concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories and marketing of same goods towards selling for profit. It may also mean a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity. Thus, while I know that there are industries like the banking industry, the hospitality industry, the service industry, the entertainment industry, etc, my use of the term today will largely be in reference to the one I know a little about: the manufacturing industry. Industrialization is good for the economy. Mass production of goods puts people to work, and the goods are cheaper so more people can buy them.
Workers get paid and use their money to buy the products. As has been witnessed in China and East Asian Economies, industrialization by raising productivity is central to end the vicious cycle of poverty. Nigeria is largely an agrarian country. Despite the fact that our major revenue comes from crude oil, the biggest contributor to our gross domestic product and the biggest job holding sector remains agriculture. Sadly, despite how many eons we have practiced farming or husbandry, we do not have an agriculture industry in Nigeria.
Agricultural output is majorly consumed, traded or utilized in its natural form or at best one degree of value addition e.g. cocoa beans to cocoa powder, cassava to starch, etc. So much harvest has been wasted on a yearly basis that the general perspective is that the country needs to upscale its storage capability across the agricultural belts of the country. I prefer to see it slightly differently and say that so much of raw materials are ignored or lost each year. Our rich fertile lands and the rich diversity of produce is an open invitation to industrialization. I posit that scaled up value addition and industrialization of agricultural output is the most optimum remedy for the
agricultural and economic challenges of the country. For this to occur an unfathomable amount of knowledge has to be sought and created and enormous technology driven work needs to be done. We need academia and industry to tap together in to this path for best result to show. This partnership is called several names in different climes including University-Industry Collaboration (UIC), University-Industry Partnership (UIP), University-Industry Linkage (UIL), University-Industry Alliance (UIA) University- and Industry Relationship (UIR). They are often used interchangeably to describe the ties between university and industry.
For decades, other countries have worked hard to encourage and support knowledge exchange linkages between academia and industries in order to strengthen global economic competitiveness by building a “knowledge economy” capability. By ensuring strong academia-industry linkage, industrialization has the potential to usher in innovation in the country.
In this lecture, I will look at the general framework for university-industry interactions, types and priorities of industry-university partnerships; glean though best practices for University-industry collaborations and partnerships; elucidate the role of two international organizations or associations; mention two successful cases of industry-university partnership in Nigeria as sign post to possibilities. I will delve briefly into the modifying role of government for the sustainable success of these collaborations but I will not dwell on it for reasons that may become obvious as we go on. Finally, and of course, I will give a brief about Nigerian Breweries and tell a story of our sustained walk in this path and the Education Trust Fund that we administer that enables us to light little collaborative candles for educational infrastructure and development around the country instead of focusing energy on complaining about the paucity of light.
The internationally recognized model for understanding entrepreneurship, the changing dynamics of universities, innovation, socio-economic development and relations between the triumvirate of university-industry-government is often referred to as the Triple Helix model. It emphasizes the growing triadic relationship between university-industry-government in the contemporary knowledge society (Etzkowitz, 2008). It is also a model of managing interactions among universities, business and government on common projects (Fig. 1).
Fig 1: The triple helix model: Knowledge/Research – Industry – Policy/Government Partnership Source, Faborode, 2017
University academics have a role as agents of disseminating and implementing the science, art and technology, as well as agents that from constructive values for the development of creative industries in the nation. Industries and businesses are entrepreneurs, investors and creators of new technologies as well as creative industrial consumers. Government involvement in the development of creative industries is needed especially through better management of regional autonomy, democracy and the principles of good governance. Governments act as:
1. Catalyst, facilitator and advocate that provide stimulation, challenge, encouragement, business ideas in order to move to a higher level of competence. Financial assistance, incentives and protection can be provided by government in addition to commitment to using political power appropriately and provision of administrative services for the good of the public.
2. Regulators that generate policies relating to people, industry, academic institutions, intermediation, resources and technology. Government can accelerate the development of creative industries if the government can formulate policies that create good business climate conducive to the creative industries.
3. Consumers, investors, and even entrepreneurs. Government can establish businesses, and is principally responsible for infrastructure investment industry.
4. Urban planner leading to development of cities that will foster creativity and innovation.
In my view, the university that best suits the Triple Helix must be entrepreneurial. The academic ‘third mission’ i.e. involvement in socio-economic development (community service), next to the traditional missions of teaching and research is most salient in the Entrepreneurial University. The motto of FUTA is, ‘Technology for self-reliance”. It connotes the institution as mostly entrepreneurial. FUTA should therefore possess enhanced capacity to provide students with new ideas, skills and entrepreneurial talent. FUTA products should not just be the new generations of professionals in various scientific, agricultural, engineering, business etc disciplines, but further trained and encouraged to become entrepreneurs and firm founders, contributing to economic growth and job creation in a society that needs such outcomes more than ever.
Moreover entrepreneurial universities should also extend their capabilities of educating individuals to educating organizations, through entrepreneurship and incubation programmes and new training modules at venues such as inter-disciplinary centres, science parks, academic spin-offs, incubators and venture capital firms. Rather than only serving as source of new ideas for existing companies and firms, universities should ascribe to combining their research and training capabilities in new formats to become a source of new company formation, especially in advanced areas of science and technology
Types of Industry-University Linkages.
These collaborative activities take several forms. It may be formal or informal, from formal equity partnerships, contracts, research projects, patent licensing, and so on, to human capital mobility publications and interactions in conferences and expert groups amongst others. It is pertinent to emphasize that synergy between academia and industries plays a critical role in creating opportunities for Students Industrial Work Experience and enabling hands-on practical experience as well as skills acquisition.
It may also be useful to differentiate between short-term and long-term collaboration. Short-term collaborations consist of on-demand problem solving with predefined results and tend to be articulated through contract research, consulting and licensing. Long-term collaborations are associated with joint projects, and public-private partnerships (including private-funded university instituted chairs, joint Industry-University research centres and research consortia), often allowing firms to contract for a core set of services and to periodically re-contract for specific deliverables in a flexible manner. Long- term collaborations are more strategic and open-ended, providing a multifaceted platform for the universities and the industries to develop innovative activities together (Larsen et al., 2016).
Priorities And Scope Of Industry-Academia Partnerships
Saini and Dubey (2017) succinctly summarized the priorities and scope of Industry-Academia partnerships in developed and poorly developed countries (Table 2) based on university orientation with respect to teaching, research and entrepreneurship. In poorly developed countries, a major concern is the low level and poor quality of education and the lack of financing available to the universities. This is a major constraint to the capacity of universities to join industry in innovation related projects.
Establishing effective Industry-University collaboration in this context takes time and sustained effort and also partly because the academic institutions in the poorly developed countries generally have little experience in industry collaboration and limited managerial capacity in research. Existing collaborations tend to be more informal and to focus on the company’s recruitment of university graduates, for staffing, internships, and consulting. The research of universities is less likely to lead to spin-offs or patents that can be commercially exploited. Additionally, in many poorly developed countries, Industry-University collaboration is further constrained by historically based cultural and institutional barriers which take time to overcome.
Best Practices For University-Industry Cooperation
Many studies on collaborations between universities and industries in developed and emergent economies (Barnes et al., 2002; Pertuze et al., 2010; Salleh and Omar, 2013; Saini and Dubey, 2017) have revealed at least seven best practices for successful university and industry partnerships.
Collaborations Through International Organisations.
Collaborations and partnerships between universities and industries can further be achieved and facilitated by joining exclusive international organizations specifically focused on driving relationships between the component entities. For instance there is the membership based University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP) in the USA which by 2016 comprised more than 130 member companies and universities.
The membership comprises some of the finest innovation companies and best research universities in the world: organizations committed to active participation in pursuit of excellence in University-Industry collaboration and partnership. UIDP recognize that members have a global focus and there is the general consensus to benchmark what is being done in other parts of the world.
UIDP membership presents a great opportunity for any selected university to engage with others in the organization thereby providing new perspectives to industry collaboration as well as exploring new approaches to fostering partnerships. Under the terms of UIDP membership, universities are required to nominate an industrial partner. FUTA being the Best University of Technology in Nigeria should through the International Strategy Office endeavor to join UIDP and may nominate Nigerian Breweries as the industrial partner It is important that collaborations also add to the mobility of labour between the academia and the industry.
The more people can speak both languages, the better the proposals and the approval processes can be. For this respect, we must start as early as possible. Herein lies the value of exchange programs, education intervention programs and youth immersion organizations. There are two international organizations that have played a huge role in this workspace that I would like to acknowledge in passing: AIESEC and IAESTE. I am an AIESEC Alumnus and I must state that the many trainings I got as a teenager and young adult shaped my mind in seeing that academia and industry can best make an impact if the agree upon and drive in one common agenda.
I accept that the rationale and purpose of academia (the pursuit of knowledge and research) is different from the motive of industry (the drive for productivity and profit). However, if one takes a helicopter perspective and we zero the mind to desired outcomes and impact, there is no difference between both sides. We both want the same thing: to better our society/world, create jobs delivered with well-trained people and provide impactful solutions. On the other hand, the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) is an academic exchange network that can foster collaborations and partnerships between universities and industries.
It was founded in 1948 and has a network of over 90 member countries involving more than 1500 universities and more than 3500 research and development companies. IAESTE offer academic institutions: support for internationalization strategy; opportunity for students to gain international work experience and enhance their independence, employability and flexibility; platform for international diversity to the faculty by providing reciprocal traineeships; and enhancement of university reputation and brand. IAESTE offer industries or businesses: screening and selection of trainees for placements and these are usually highly motivated and resourceful students to undertake short-term projects; opportunities to learn about the culture and technological levels of other countries since contacts are developed with young professionals from other countries as well as opportunities to view your enterprise from different perspectives and desirable modifications may ensue. It is gratifying that FUTA is one of the few Universities in Nigeria that currently hosts IAESTE. The University Management should strive to provide all that may be required to make the organization thrive in order to enjoy all the benefits.
3 Cases of Research-Industry Partnership In Nigeria
1. THE CADBURY CEREAL CONVERSION PLANT PROGRAM
In the mid-80s when the import substitution challenges became almost unbearable and manufactured products were disappearing from shelves at an alarming rate, Cadbury Nigeria Plc needed to explore the utilisation of local grains in place of imported malts for their product range. It was a matter of corporate life or death. There was no cash to keep importing. It was get it right or go bust. The company had to collaborate with academia. This was not an issue for bringing in a foreign ensemble to try. Forex had already limited the geographical dimensions. It had to be done locally. The company went into partnership with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to develpp the ideas and prototypes for a cereal conversion plant that used local grains as raw materials. The chosen grain was sorghum. It took over five years of designing and planning, trying and failing, restarting and hanging on. It takes a lot of technology and thought to convert sorghum into malt and glucose. But, ultimately, the partnership got it right. In 1990, the cereal conversion plant was commissioned. It still stands today, creating jobs, saving foreign exchange, utilising raw materials and providing input materials for well-beloved brands. Jobs were/are created and farmers still enjoy the benefit of higher offtake.
2. SOYA BEAN POPULARIZATION AND PRODUCTION PROJECT
The interaction between the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and Nestle Nigeria in the Soya bean Popularization and Production Project since 1999 (Faborode, 2017), is another one worthy of citation. Nestle employed FUNAAB to help address its challenges in demand for soya beans. Soya beans is one of the major raw materials Nestle employs for the production of baby foods. Learning by interaction between FUNAAB scientists and Nestle farm managers and farmers contributed significantly to building capacity for innovation especially at the farm level. Improved production process for good quality seeds and grains was developed by FUNAAB. Nestle Nigeria saved costs by finding alternative to the hitherto inefficient owned-farms farms located in northern Nigeria and secured a regular supply of high quality soya beans from the linkage farmers. The interaction boosted FUNAAB’s extension activities with the resultant popularization of its model of soya bean cultivation in south west Nigeria, which invariably became an important soya bean producing region. On the whole, the Nestle-FUNAAB partnership improved the livelihoods of the people in the region and enhanced technology adoption for soya bean processing, especially the threshing technology.
3. NIGERIAN BREWERIES & ENHANCING THE SORGHUM VALUE CHAIN
At Nigerian Breweries, we take issues of sustainable development very seriously. It is embedded in our DNA and our sustainability agenda of Brewing a Better World. In the last 25 years, we have made huge investments to significantly improve output and quality of sorghum produced in Nigeria through support to research and introduction of new hybrids among other efforts. These have remarkably enhanced the fortunes of local farmers and taken the sorghum value chain to new heights. Enhancing the sorghum value chain has involved collaboration with various implementing partners. One of these collaborators has been the Institute for Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University and International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The USAID/MARKETS project team partnered with NB as from 2003-2006 in the development of two sorghum seed varieties (CSR-01 and CSR-02) with the capacity to increase farm yield from the 0.8 metric tonnes per hectare at that time to 2 metric tonnes per hectare. Our collaboration with the Ahmadu Bello University and ICRISAT scientists further produced improved hybrid sorghum varieties CSR-03H and CSR-04H with potential yield of 4 metric tonnes per hectare. The two hybrid sorghum varieties have been certified by the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), the statutory government institution for the certification and release of seeds for national use. Over 250, 000 farmers have benefitted from this upgraded seed varieties. Nigeria is the top sorghum growing country in Africa (and 3rd in the world) with average production of 7.4m tonnes per annum just marginally below India who has 7.5m tonnes. Unlike other countries in the top 4, sorghum in Nigeria is largely used for food and livestock feed. The increased yield ensures that as industrial usage of sorghum escalates, food security in Nigeria is not hampered. On top of this, we have pushed the boundary in having two sorghum malting plants as part of our operating footprint. One of them, the Aba Malting Plant, is the biggest sorghum malting plant in Africa in facility and in output.
About Nigerian Breweries Plc
Nigerian Breweries Plc is the pioneer and largest brewing company in Nigeria. The company, a subsidiary of Heineken N.V incorporated in 1946, commenced brewing operations in 1949 with Star, Nigeria’s first indigenous beer. Currently, the company’s portfolio of brands are produced in 10 operating breweries strategically located around Nigeria.
As a socially responsible corporate organization with good track record of corporate social initiatives in identified and strategic areas, NBL has over the years, been very active in supporting Nigeria’s development aspirations in line with her vision of ‘Winning with Nigeria’. Our corporate social responsibility agenda is driven within the HEINEKEN-wide sustainability “Brewing a Better World”.
NIGERIAN BREWERIES-FELIX OHIWEREI EDUCATION TRUST FUND
In 1994, the Nigerian Breweries-Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund was established with a seed capital of One hundred million Naira (N 100,000,000.00) for use to take more active part in the funding of educational and research institutions in Nigeria. It has footprints across the six geographical zones at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. It has constructed and furnished over 280 classrooms, 80 sanitary facilities and 32 libraries in 40 communities across the country. It has also granted scholarships to deserving students in tertiary institutions. More recently, the Fund made a sponsorship donation of One million dollars ($ 1,000,000.00) to the PanAtlantic University (PAU) for the construction of the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Technology Complex at its Ibeju Lekki Campus. All these are in a bid to improve the standards of educational infrastructure in the country. In 2015, we introduced the Maltina Teacher of the Year Initiative to recognize, reward and showcase exceptional teachers around the country. This is in itself a partnership with the academia. The jury is largely made up of Professors and representatives of the body of principals and one juror to represent the open society. Thus far we have honoured over 151 teachers across the country and the next set will be unveiled on October 11, 2018, six days after world teachers’ day. I am not supposed to mention that Prof. Thomas Ofuya who conscripted me to stand before you today has been a member of that jury since the commencement of this initiative. I am also not supposed to mention that the same Prof. Ofuya was elected to serve as Chairman of the Jury Panel by his co-jurors last week. Because I was not supposed to mention it, I will not mention it. I will not even profess it.
The Vice Chancellor, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me be unequivocal here in concluding: for our nation to be competitive in the global economy, synergistic interactions between the universities, industries (and the government) are vital for good progress. The Universities are needed to produce and apply knowledge, and to produce knowledgeable and well skilled workers across the skills spectrum – education sector, industries and government.
Industry should continue to provide or support platforms for the universities to actively participate in products development by innovative processes and projects, students’ practical training and experiences and staff exchanges, among others. The enabling environment including good governance and policies, funding, incentives, infrastructure, etc. should be created for collaborations and partnerships between academia and industry to thrive. The universities must help the nation to take adequate advantage of the platform of globalization to be active players in the exploitation of science, technology and innovation for national development. As a university of repute, I urge FUTA to take the lead in further uplifting academia-industry relations in Nigeria.
As many of you can attest, I am not advocating something new or unheard of, actually. Across the world, at the moment, the bulk of research activity at academic institutions are funded by companies. Some sources say more than 65% of research work in the universities around the world are industry-funded. Some are funded from a remote philanthropic point of view but a significant percentage of them are collaborative studies, joint researches, innovation tester programs, etc. Usually these ones valued because they are very useful for universities in their visible agenda and very cost-effective for industries given the challenges of funds in a world of competing needs seeking support from the same diminishing purses.
The company executive who is saddled with allocating these funding resources or managing the projects that are signed up (like this speaker) is to be pitied not envied. First up, no matter what he does, so many good proposals will be left out. Secondly, especially in these developing regions like ours, the ‘physiological projects’ take the primacy over strategic long term initiatives. Thirdly, and most relevant to this audience, there is a paucity of truly impactful proposals that can harness the strengths of university-industry partnering to select from. Yet, for us to meet up with the rest of the world, the strategic intellectual milieu is where we must situate our combined efforts and resources. Please note that I used the word “resources” not merely “money”.
I have earlier stated that one of my convictions is that no country can truly develop unless it masters the process of industrializing the output and opportunities within its agricultural space. Every country in the world that has done it has needed universities and industry working together in close cooperation. I know there have been several flirtations on this idea over the past two decades or so, but this is the journey we must expedite immediately. The world is already ahead of us but, like we say in my homestead, when someone wakes, that commences his morning. To be awake is easy. The get up and go is where success is hidden. To do this properly, we need everybody but the drivers of this type of journey has to be universities and industries. We are the biggest stakeholders in this respect. If it works out, we are the ones who will have the sustainable bragging rights. So let’s start (or let’s continue)… and bring the rest of the country on board as we signpost successes.
To be clear, establishing collaborations and partnerships are not a walk in the park. It is a long tortuous journey in many instances. There are a dozen failures before one success can occur.
Each success can cause hubris which detracts from continuing the good journey. In global success cases, there are two mitigating factors on this. First is to think long term not short term and to focus on impact not outcome. With a long term mindset, each slab of ‘failure’ becomes another stepping stone towards winning the battle. These research partnerships pose some challenges too including intellectual property issues, confidentiality of joint projects, indirect costs that Universities add to the project costs, and conflicts of interest that may arise. In addition, academic research and industrial research have some fundamental differences. Let me give an insight to what I mean by dialects. Business research is generally targeted at what makes sense commercially, we think in markets, demand and supply. We speak consumers and customers but academic research speaks a different language, which you all here are very fluent in. To expedite collaboration between universities and industry, we must have translations or better still, teams that speak both dialects. Industry must understand what makes successful academic work, the meticulous attention to insights that academicians crave for and support these by building them into the funding structure of the initiatives to be collaborated on. On the other hand, partners in the academia must make effort to understand the way of industrial work especially the urgency of getting things done now now now and the priority we place on applicability. With impact in our mind, we will leave the silo risk of focusing on our dialects and what constitutes ‘success’ in our ‘dialects’ or spheres. If you meet us at this point of urgent need and applicability, the job I almost half done from the very start.
That is why speaking in impact as a joint new language becomes critical. What impact would we want each ‘collabo’ to create for society? How will it move the needle for the country compared to others? Will it bring about or support innovation or technology transfer? Will it result in efficiencies and better output by/for the intended beneficiaries? Will it upscale knowledge in any way? Are the lessons from embarking on it scalable and replicable? Will new businesses, jobs, patents, products come from it? Indeed, what additionalities will occur because of this collaboration? Finally, it is also important to ask: what are the downsides or potential downsides of the collaboration or partnership? Each of these preceding questions can be reframed as decision variables to enable us pre-agree the impact we desire to make or even to help us choose between proposal options.
Come, let us truly begin a relationship that will be of global reckoning. Many of us in the private sector are willing to think along with you. We have societal and industrial needs we can put on the table to kick-start your thinking and ultimately your proposals. If we find a nexus, who knows? We may get to work together to create something truly amazing. After all, our philosophy at Nigerian Breweries is “winning with Nigeria” and you can hardly be more Nigerian than the Nigerian University, especially a pioneering citadel like FUTA. I make you one solemn promise, I will profess this message along with you and your International Strategy Office till the journey truly gathers force.
The Vice Chancellor, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for listening.
God bless you.
Download Presentation Here - Global Perspectives On Collaborations & Partnerships Between Universities & Industries – An Advisory Framework For Nigeria
*Kufre Ekanem is the Corporate Affairs Adviser of Nigerian Breweries Plc