Universities provide the rich scientific knowledge base, which is the foundation for innovation and economic development. The African Institute of Science and Technology (AUST) in Nigeria is one of the six African universities that have received financial and technical support from the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) to create an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in the university. With initial funding support from the African Development Bank and in collaboration with innovation hubs in the region, the university inaugurated an institutional based technology business incubator called AUSTInspire, to bridge the gap in innovation and research commercialization especially in healthcare, energy, shelter, water, oil and gas sectors in the region. RSIF financial support has picked up to further help the hub implement several activities as well as attract additional funding for its operationalization
RSIF financial and technical support has enabled AUST through its Pan African Materials Institute, African Centre of Excellence in Materials, to strengthen and expand the capacity of AUSTinspire and support and promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among its faculty and students.
Through this support, a strategic policy document on innovation and entrepreneurship including intellectual property (IP) and commercialization of research outcome was developed with support from the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Nigeria. Further a capacity building workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship was facilitated to 105 students and 65 faculty in collaboration with various industry and government trainers. A follow-on ten-day innovation and entrepreneurship bootcamp was organized which attracted participation of 150 students and 25 faculty. The bootcamp was culminated by a pitching competition where 13 groups presented their ideas to a panel of judges from the business innovation space. Five start up projects with support from RSIF grants were selected to receive business incubation support from the AUSTInspire.
As an offshoot of bootcamp, which was partly sponsored with matching funds provided by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the university received additional support from the AfDB to operationalize the AUSTInspire hub. Part of the AfDB funding was used to carry out a feasibility study of some innovation and incubation hubs in the country to draw lessons and best practices for the operationalization of the AUSTInspire hub.
AUST Centre for Lifelong Learning (AC4LL) was launched as an off shoot of the RSIF support. the funding is what supported the establishment of the Centre for life long learnning and rolll out of the courses. The centre offers opportunities for many working-class persons to engage in various continuing professional education programs especially in entrepreneurship, project management and other relevant subjects. Four short courses have already been launched under this program, one on Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, one in Advanced Project Management and two on Monitoring and Evaluation. A total of 55 persons have successfully completed these certificate courses in AC4LL.
AUSTInspire has enabled the university community to engage and collaborate more with innovation hubs within Abuja thus improving our ability to solve real life problems through innovation. Prof. A. P. Onwualu, Ag Vice Chancellor, AUST
The university also organized an industry open day that attracted 28 industries from various sectors of the Nigerian economy to exhibit their products and services and interact with the students and faculty. It was also an opportunity for the university researchers to showcase their research outputs from different departments for possible collaboration with industry partners.
To foster University-Industry collaboration, the AUST Industry Advisory Board (AIAB) was launched in April 2022, with a membership of 11 industrial partners, the board will work closely with the university to strengthen its linkage with relevant industries to enhance it capacity in innovation development.
Higher education institutions are gradually embracing the importance of innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship, and creating value for their communities. African governments together with their development partners have committed to support the strengthening of research and innovation capacity of African universities through the RSIF program of the Partnership for Skills in Applied Science, Engineering and Technology (PASET). Read here for more information on RSIF funded projects.