Diffusing Research and Development from Higher Education into Nigerian Society


Published: 24th Jun, 2024

Author: Chinonso Ihuoma

Duration: 5min Read

A phrase that has taken over the industrial and academic sectors, “Research and Development (R&D),” signifies the need for continuous relearning and unlearning in intellectual and labour settings. Before the 1950s, both terms stood independent of each other. While research was considered the activity of scientists and academics, development was restricted to the socio-economic sector. Innovations, inventions, and the creation of new goods and prototypes are often the result of independent laboratory studies. Research and development, or R&D, is the process of searching for new ideas and transforming them into either a completely new innovation or a refined version of an already existing product. 

Governments, institutions, and the private sector invest millions or even billions of local currencies in research and development in most developed nations. In 2021, for example, higher institutions in the United States conducted 44% of U.S. basic research and spent almost $90 billion on R&D, with the government providing 55% of the total finances. In 2022, $97.8 billion was allocated to academic institutions for the purpose of research. The government of Ireland, in 2022, allocated €963.7 million to R&D and estimated €1,075 million for 2023. From this allocation, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science received 53% (€514.2m) of the total government budget allocations for R&D (GBARD). £19.4 billion was set aside in the UK between 2023 and 2024 for research and development. In addition, for the 2023–2024 academic year, £2,132 was allocated for research, and the government intends to spend  2.4% of its GDP by 2027 on R&D.  

Universities, colleges of education, and polytechnics in Nigeria offer post-secondary or higher education. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund's (TETFUND) Department of Research & Development/Centers of Excellence (R&D/CE) oversees the majority of the funding for R&D in the tertiary education sector.

What Type of Research is Conducted in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions?

As previously said, research comprises a systematic review of a product, situation, or concept with the goal of improving it, offering a long-term solution, or introducing a novel idea. Development starts when the research ends. Most innovations are the result of research conducted in a laboratory or in libraries. R&D in Nigeria’s higher education sector is primarily evident in the number of research publications carried out by lecturers, students, and, in rare cases, non-academic staff. 

Charged with coordinating Institution-Based Research (IBR) as well as the National Research Fund (NRF), the Department of Research & Development/ Centers of Excellence of TETFUND has supported academic research and provided strategic support for academic research that was plagued by a scarcity of funds. The National Research Fund (NRF) also promotes research in higher education. The NFR was established to support innovative research in the Cross-Cutting, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Science, Engineering, Technology, and Innovation pertinent to the country's all-round development. 

How can R&D be Diffused from Higher Education to Nigerian society?

Scientific and innovative ideas are born from research in higher education; thus, higher education, research, and development often go hand in hand. R&D remains a major contributor to national development when adequately utilised for development purposes. For research to lead to development, there is a need for a link between the research objective and society's needs. Thus, academic research in higher education becomes a tool for innovation and development. However, achieving this remains a major challenge for Nigerian society. 

Many academic publications are put out daily for public use by researchers, students, and lecturers/teachers of higher institutions. Yet, the most basic development needs of the country endure. Although there is no general collection of the total number of publications originating from Nigeria or by Nigerians within a time period, Scimago Institutions rankings for the first quarter of 2024 showed that Covenant University had more publications with 2968 articles, followed by Landmark University (3688), the University of Calabar (3965), the University of Ibadan (3977), the University of Nigeria (4779), and the University of Lagos (4819). Thomson Reuter’s rankings showed that of the 4762 universities that featured in its 2024 first quarter ranking, 266 were Nigerian universities with a total of 23,001 scientists. 

According to a Scopus analysis, the University of Ibadan had the largest number of contributors but the second-highest number of published articles, while the University of Nigeria had the most publications and the second-largest number of authors.

Although research is saddled with poor funding opportunities in Nigeria, achieving development through research can be obtained by creating tangible connections between the research aim, objectives, and findings with societal needs and innovative agendas. Research from the higher education sector should be channelled towards promoting the host society and humanity at large, not just as published articles cited by scholars and useful for promotion. The informal sector accounts for 90% of employment in developing nations and more than 50% of jobs worldwide. Since the informal sector plays a significant role in Nigeria’s development, research findings should be disseminated to the grassroots in a language that is very easy to understand. The informal sector forms the core of Nigeria's economy; thus, there is a need to form a practical synergy between it and researchers in the higher education sector. Scholars need to partner with local producers to innovate their research findings, thereby creating an atmosphere of division of labour and productivity. Higher education in Nigeria does not need to exist in isolation to share evident collaborations with the informal education sector. This way, research done in the laboratories and office tables can be transmitted and integrated into the informal sector to serve Nigerian society at large and to promote economic growth and development. 


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