Our approach to the development of the new Research and Innovation Directorate of Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, would be guided by two mutually reinforcing axioms. Firstly, we recognise the fact that Research is an activity in reality. Secondly, we draw inspiration from the words on marble, as authored by the former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, on June 4 2009, in Cairo, Egypt, where he declared while delivering his remarks entitled, A New Beginning, that “all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st Century …” 

The fact that research is an activity in reality presupposes that all forms of research must, firstly, be of interest to the researcher and must be made to solve human problems, especially that confronting our immediate environment and the society (or humankind) at large.

Since we are in a globalizing world, we must conduct research that drives a Knowledge Based Economy (KBE). However, in doing that, we must think ‘glocal’, that is, our research must be characterized by both local and global considerations. This is with a view to ensuring that the products of this noble University would use their acquired skills to ensure that our local economies meet the challenges in an era of globalization. 

To achieve this, we must position our University to be a leading research-intensive institution by supporting collaboration among a diverse community of experts in order to accelerate ideas and extend the frontiers of knowledge. Such specialised and rigorous research efforts would assist in providing critical information that would assist in growing the University’s creative activity. To achieve all this, the University must reappraise the existing research infrastructure and landscape, with a view to eliminating those impediments that prevent ideas hatched in the University from reaching the market.

This is where innovation comes in and the willingness of the University, not only to support collaboration and transformation among researchers but also be in a position to harness resources and opportunities that would make researchers (be they students or lecturers) develop and excel in their various academic and research endeavours. Such support available for research would include resources for researchers to manage their publications, data or research reputation. They should also be in a position to receive advice on where to go for support at different stages of the life cycle of their research project.

On the other hand, innovation has been defined in its simplest term as the introduction of something new or different. It is, however, achieved by producing something original which invariably produces efficiency and often times leads to an idea that affects the society in a very significant way. Through innovation, an idea or invention could be translated into a good or service that creates value or for which customers are willing to pay. Therefore, our students must be taught how to innovate at work. We shall teach them to challenge received doctrines by doing things differently or improving on them. To that extent, students must be taught and encouraged to ventilate their ideas and thoughts, no matter how ‘weird’ they might appear to be originally. After all, the world was thought to be flat initially, before science proved it otherwise.

Such research and innovation efforts must focus on the big challenges confronting us today as a nation and on discoveries that matter, be they in the arts, social science, law, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, statistics or medicine, to mention but a few. Consequently, the University must ensure that those with strategic responsibility for research and innovation are empowered to provide students with competencies that would make them act as change agents as well as play leading roles in the world of work. On their part, the research and innovation team must develop research metrics and put in place a robust data gathering mechanism that would facilitate the tracking of research and research-related activities. The team would also ensure that the University’s policy framework supports any research and commercialisation objectives, while at the same time adhering strictly to the provisions stipulated by the University’s donors or development partners.

To this end, we must redefine our University as a knowledge enterprise by inspiring our students and Faculties to lead discovery in the humanities, science and technology. Therefore, we shall adopt an interdisciplinary and solutions-focused approach to research through the fusion of intellectual disciplines that facilitate solutions to complex societal problems, as well as making our students and Faculties interact with experienced entrepreneurs. Such exposure would enable our students and Faculties understand the real world of business and markets. Again, such experiential training would enable our students develop entrepreneurial mindsets, identify opportunities, refine business models and be in a position to grow their ventures ultimately. This would effectively guarantee the absorption of products of our University into the labour force, foster economic growth, as well as strengthen technological progress.

How We intend to Achieve the above Objectives:

(1)        We shall aim at harvesting big ideas.

(2)        We shall encourage research into works that help solve our immediate problems as             well as support and commercialise life-changing ideas and discoveries.

(3)        The University already has an automated Library (e-Library) that would enable our            students and Faculties have access to infinite number of books, journals and articles        existing within the academic community worldwide.

(4)        Our University must be made to operate in a more computer mediated environment by      making our processes to be largely Information and Communications Technology         (ICT) driven. This could be enhanced by intensifying the created Hotspots on campus    to enable students and Faculties surf the net anywhere within the campus or in      designated areas. This would enable them have access to different academic resources     from around the globe at their convenience, thereby exposing them to new and current             ideas on various fields of endeavour.

(5)        Students must be taught that by studying hard and being innovative, they can actually      achieve both wealth and greatness.

(6)        The University community must be educated on how to attract funding from the   government, development partners, industries and other stakeholders for the       attainment of these objectives. A starting point would be to encourage our lecturers      and the University to tap into the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) that is     available for all tertiary institutions.

(7)        The University should also explore how to get Venture Partners to assist in             developing the products of our research and innovation efforts.

(8)        The University should establish a Consultancy Unit to provide management,          commercial and financial support and expertise to staff wishing to carry out consultancy as well as become a meeting point between town and gown.

(9)        A monthly Newsletter on latest Research and Innovations within the campus, as well        as opportunities and support available for similar engagements should be circulated    within Departments and Faculties.

(10)      An Annual Research Magazine to document these findings should be introduced.

(11)      Lastly, a Research and Innovation Week must be set aside every year for showcasing        all the achievements of staff and students of the University in a given year, with possible awards for the best researched and innovative ideas.

What Should Be Our Research Focus Areas?

Our research focus should be targeted at those areas that would assist in solving the problems of our immediate environment and/or offering scientific explanations to some myths and anecdotes. Consequently, our research and innovative activities should focus but not be limited to the following examples:

(1)        What are the crops that thrive optimally in Enugu State or the South East geopolitical        zone and how do we encourage farmers, through extension services, to cultivate        them?

(2)        Late M. I Okpara established the Obudu Cattle Ranch so that the Eastern Region would be independent of meat consumption from the North. What new research or   innovative efforts could we make to multiply our goats/sheep and encourage their             ranching?

(3)        We need to investigate the hidden potentials in our medicinal leaves. Today, many of        us buy similar leaves brought in from China and India, not because ours are less     therapeutic, but because their chemical compositions and dosage have not been      established. Yet, such leaves worked for our forefathers, but, today, we turn our backs             on them because of ignorance and lack of faith. However, if properly investigated     could improve our health development efforts and save a lot of lives and foreign   exchange. A case in point is that one UNN student, my nephew, Chukwuma Okafor,     conducted his research in 2014 on the much dreaded Agbala seed (Mucuna pruriens),   notorious for its spiky and itchy sensations, yet its rich properties were quite revealing           from that research effort. His study found that the leaf juice contained some nutrients             that are beneficial to human health.

(4)        Our Mathematics and Statistics Departments should have a good dose of Computer          Science courses in their curricular. This should be a stopgap measure between          establishing a full-fledged Department of Data Science to begin to produce students    that would confront the emergent Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence that       would ultimately drive innovation. This would also contribute to data-driven decision   making that impacts society.

(5)        Our Computer Science Department should be highly involved in the Internet of     Things (IoT) and the development of Artificial Intelligence.

(6)        Have we cared to find out why the local palm wine tapper advises that we should not       keep the keg of palm wine on the cement floor but could do that on a mud floor? Is        there a scientific basis for that or is it just a myth? These and similar questions should     be agitating our minds.

(7)        Our scientists should think of how we could improve the species of our local dogs             instead of everyone clamouring to buy Alsatian dogs and other exotic breeds that are             imported to this country on yearly basis at exorbitant prices, thereby depleting our          foreign exchange.

(8)        Historians and geographers should research into our history and environment and teach us how to study and adapt to our own environment before regurgitating received       doctrines on advanced civilizations. We should be able to understand our weather           conditions and the geography of our local and national locations.

(9)        In the Arts for, instance, the poets, musicians and anthropologists should tap into and       translate the poetic and philosophical wisdom hidden in the vanishing practice of           Abb Maw (masquerade/spirit-manifest chant). This would not only promote our     cultural values but would also lead to the production of extensive literature.

(10)      Cultural Revolution: The envisaged drive for research and innovation would be     integrated within the context of a cultural revolution of some sort. To that extent, the      University must consider creating as a matter of urgency a Department of Igbo        Language that would promote Igbo Language and Culture. In particular, they should            encourage research into the translation or invention of Igbo words for Scientific and      Technological terms. This would enable us teach and learn science and technology in         the language everyone understands. This will make the study of science and        technology more appealing to a greater number of Igbo nationalities and this method            is the practice in all the advanced countries where people are taught in their own            languages. Once this is achieved, the innovative spirit of the Igbo would be fired             ultimately leading to greater productivity.

Recommendations to Improve on Research and Innovation:

In order to give practical expression to the points raised above, the following are recommended:

(i)         Research Capacity Development and Research Grants Management:

            Ensures continuous development of capacity among researchers and manages the grants received from sponsors.

(ii)        Innovation and Contracts Management: 

            Manages innovations within the University and any contracts that emerge there-from

(iii)       Sponsored Research:

            Responsible for those looking for funding for their research or pre-award assistance with their proposals or grants. Also in charge of post-award financial services in support of sponsored research awards

(iv)       Office of Corporate Partnerships:

            Acts as a single point of entry for the University’s potential industry partners. It will help to identify and access available resources that will advance and accelerate the University’s and Industry’s business goals.

(v)        Technology Transfer/Patents and Licensing:

            It would assist companies interested in licensing or starting a new business around the University’s patents and intellectual property. Those researchers or students with new inventions ready for the patenting process or looking for potential licensing opportunities will also be assisted.

(vi)       Research Integrity and Compliance:

            This Unit will provide information to ensure that research activities are safe, ethical, and compliant with international best practices as well as the university’s policies.

(vii)      Research Technologies:

            This Unit is responsible for providing ICT support for those actively involved in research and innovation as well as all Research & Innovation Units. This will include computer support, network support, applications development, Website design and development.

(viii)     University’s Consultancy Department – Providing services to businesses

(ix)       Find out from Departments and Faculties what they require for effective research and innovation.

(x)        Create a special page for research and Innovation on the Website of the University.

Our Mandate/Duty

1.         Capacity Development Programme: To institute a research Capacity Development Programme which will be through workshops to train faculties and students on how to better conduct research, write proposals for grants and write journal papers, analyze data and make research findings visible.

2.         Research Grant/Sponsorship Scheme: This will entail availability of a competitive grant scheme whereby faculties and students can apply. Research proposals from faculties and students will be viewed and the university will sponsor, on a yearly basis, outstanding and innovation research projects which have direct contributions to the development of our society.

3.   Anti-plagiarism: To enforce the fight against plagiarism, the directorate will require an anti-plagiarism software whereby faculties and students, especially postgraduate students, can access to scrutinize the thoroughness and originality of their research works and unpolished manuscripts. For postgraduate studies, the anti-plagiarism report will be part of the requirements for the completing of their programmes.

4.   Documentation of Research: To develop a repository of all the research works conducted in the university, across departments and faculties and highlight on the outcome of outstanding findings.

5. Research Grants/Sponsorship Advertisement: The directorate will capture some research grant/sponsorship opportunities and advertise them on the university website.

6.   Collaboration: The directorate will facilitate research collaboration between the university and other universities in Nigeria as well as across the world.

7.   Resources for Publication: The directorate will update the university website with a list of some peer review journals indexed in major research database such as Web of Science, SCIMAGO, Scopus, Pub med, just to mention a few as well as database for staff visibility such as ORCID, Dimension, Publons, Mendeley, etc. Soft copies of such yearly reports will be made available in the university website. Also the web links of these portals will be made available for easy access.

8.   Exhibition: The unit will create a programme for exhibition of innovation and creative works on a yearly basis especially during the Town and Gown Day as well as promote research products during exhibition fairs across the nation.

9.   Improve Research Resources: The directorate will consult departments and faculties to identify necessary requirements to improve on research and innovation.

10. Rewards: It will create rewards to distinguish students and faculties that have outstanding research and innovation outputs.

11. University-Industry Relationship: The directorate will coordinate and facilitate collaboration between the university and industries for research and marketing of research products.

12. Patent: The directorate will facilitate the patenting of research products of the university.

13. Support of Publication Charge: This directorate will assist in paying the publication of articles from outstanding research projects.

Professor Richard C. Okafor,

Director, Research and Innovation

Dr. Godwill A. Engwa,

Deputy Director, Research and Innovation