UTILISING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PARKS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT---- NAN

Analysts often argue that science and technology park programmes can transform Nigeria’s landscape for socio-economic development.

They are also quick to point at the increasing number of such parks and their impact on economic development of many developed nations.

Perhaps, it was against this notion that Prof. Hassan Alidou, Director and Country Representative of UNESCO in Nigeria, said that science parks provide a platform for linkage between science and business.

Alidou said if promoted in Nigeria, the parks would stimulate dynamic evolution in technology, boost commercialisation of innovations, and contribute to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP).

According to him, science and technology parks would fast-track the development of incubation, and small and medium scale enterprises.

“The parks are common in U.S., UK, China and Japan, where they contribute to economic development and global competitiveness of the respective countries.

“This is also helping them in fostering entrepreneurship, incubating new innovative companies, generating knowledge-based jobs and enhancing synergy among local innovators, manufacturers and companies,’’ he said.

While pledging UNESCO’s support for the project, Alidou assured participants at a recent workshop in Abuja that the organisation would provide important advisory services and technical assistance.

He, however, stressed that science park development projects, including the SHESTCO Silicon Valley, would require massive and consistent long-term funding from governments and stakeholders.

“The Ministry of Science and Technology needs to mobilise investments, and modern and foreign technologies to expand its productive assets and increase its core competencies and competitiveness,’’ he said.

Assessing the importance of the parks and its finances, the Ministry of Science and Technology recently reviewed its National Science, Technology and Innovation policy.

The new policy, approved by the Federal Executive Council in February 2012, stresses the need for the establishment of functional science and technology parks as a strategy for achieving technology transfer in Nigeria.

To actualise the contents of the reviewed policy, the ministry organised a one-day meeting and workshop on Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO) Silicon Valley.

The Silicon Valley project was inaugurated in 2004 and the Federal Capital Territory Administration allocated 79.8 hectares for it at SHESTCO.

Prof. Asuquo Thomas, Director-General of SHESTCO, said the focal areas of Silicon Valley included solar technology, production of solar cells, ICT, Nanotechnology, biotechnology and agricultural technologies.

Thomas listed multi-national companies, including Intel, Microsoft, LG and Samsung, as some of the technology companies anticipated to participate in the Silicon Valley project.

He said, when completed, the project would boost Nigeria’s development of ICT industry via the production of silicon-based chips, software and other ICT solutions.

According to him, other benefits would include technology-driven innovation, wealth creation, increased productivity and value addition to local products.

Mrs Rabi Jimeta, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said that the Silicon Valley would stimulate and control the flow of knowledge and technology among universities, research and development institutions and companies.

According to her, the project would also serve as a platform for developing and harnessing the potential of silicon and solar technology.

Some analysts agree that the establishment of a functional silicon valley would help Nigeria to develop a knowledge-based economy that would sustain development.

Prof.  Deog-song Oh, Secretary-General of World Technopolis Association, noted that Nigeria should encourage the establishment of Science and Technology Parks “because a knowledge-based economy is the only way a country can fast-track its development’’.

A former Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Ewa, alluded to  Oh’s opinion, explaining that the project was a platform for government, universities and research institutions to work harmoniously through synergy.

He said that the successful implementation of the project required the collaboration of other ministries and the private sector.

“For instance, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) is expected to provide municipal services such as road network, sewage, light rail, water, offices, residential accommodation and recreational facilities.

“It is also expected of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to mobilise both indigenous and foreign investors,’’ Ewa said.

Stakeholders insist that the development of Science and Technology Parks with sustained funding and maintenance that would bring about Nigeria’s desired economic transformation. (NANFeatures)

Credit:  News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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