Today’s discourse would be centred on one of the three parts of an article I completed very recently. My interest in ICT and it’s immense potential as a vibrant source of economic growth and development through the establishment of technology-based companies and businesses is a profound one. That’s why the activities of NOTAP (National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion) greatly interests me, and I believe should interest you too.
NOTAP has been statutorily established and empowered to support inventions and innovations towards Indigenous technological advancement in Nigeria. This will be published in three parts: The Huge Potentials: Nigerian Inventors and Innovators Need Support, and History of NOTAP: Nigeria’s First Step towards a Technological Revolution; the Organisational Structure of NOTAP, and Functions of the National Office: Promoting and Developing Indigenous Technology for National Advancement. I will then finally wrap it up by discussing NOTAP’s Commercialisation of R&D Results and the Nigerian Economy, draw conclusions, and recommend the possible way forward. Today, I will take the first part: The Huge Potentials: Nigerian Inventors and Innovators Need Support, and History of NOTAP: Nigeria’s First Step towards a Technological Revolution.
The ability to compete globally is the new drive today. Technology is continually changing the world, and no country wants to be left behind. The forces of globalisation and liberalisation have been more powerful than ever before. That is why in today’s world economy, any country that desires to be an active force in this domain must keep driving its national economy towards some great level of global competitiveness. To achieve this, that country must be able to efficiently harness its own inventions and innovations for world-class indigenous technological advancement. Over-reliance on foreign technology cannot bring about global competitiveness for any country. To compete well, you must create. And if you must rely on foreign technology, at least a protective technology transfer agreement must be in place to striking a balance between embracing globalisation and securing national interests.
In this article, I will be closely examining the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP or the National Office). This is not only because it is one of the Federal parastatals charged with the responsibility of realising the goals of the existing National Policy on Technological Development. NOTAP also has the ultimate mandate of taking Nigeria to greater heights scientifically and technologically. This is to be realised through its various activities. Some of these activities include the evaluation and registration of Technology Transfer Agreements, commercialisation of R&D (Research and Development), and promotion of intellectual property (IP), among others.
Therefore, the focus of this work is the developmental role of NOTAP, and its significance in the realisation of the Nigerian dream on the development of indigenous technology as globally competitive brands.
The Huge Potentials: Nigerian Inventors and Innovators Need Support
In discussing the history of NOTAP, one must not fail to essentially mention that Nigerian inventors and innovators have been contributing greatly to technological advancements in various fields globally. In commemoration of World Intellectual Property Day on April 26, 2013, NLIPW (Nigerian Law Intellectual Property Watch) spotlighted 16 great Nigerian Inventors.
To help me demonstrate the lack of support mostly suffered by Nigerian inventors in the hands of our government, I will briefly highlight a few of these listed inventors. Brino Gilbert is a Nigerian-born inventor, credited with the invention of the Counter Collision Gadget (CCG). The invention, which has earned him many awards, is a device that has the capacity of preventing accidents on the road, air, sea and rail. Apart from being awarded the bronze medal in the Aerospace/Aeronautics category at the May 2003 edition of the Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX) in the United States, the invention also got a silver medal as the best from Africa. Interestingly, a Nigerian physicist from Edo State, Gilbert is said to have “spent 10 years seeking government attention for his research and approached several groups and individuals for sponsorship.” His vision to make CCG exportable worldwide has remained a dream. Gilbert is not alone. Another Nigerian inventor is Sebastine Omeh. A graduate of Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Omeh is best known for his research into the use of wind-propelled turbines to generate power. This was an innovative indigenous response to the lack of constant supply of electricity in the country. Also, Kaduna-born Jelani Aliyu is credited with designing General Motors’ leading auto brand, Chevrolet Volt. He was hired by General Motors after his graduation with a degree in Automobile Design from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan as far back as 1994. Another Nigerian inventor is Saheed Adepoju. He is the Co-founder of Encipher Limited, a Nigerian-based technology company said to have “introduced the first android-powered tablet into Nigeria.” He is the inventor of the INYE-1 & 2 tablet computers specially designed for the African market. The list contains many others. And of course, there are probably hundreds or thousands of Nigerian inventors and innovators out there, real and potential, who are not even in the limelight today. Others have also gone abroad in search of a more conducive environment and supportive system.
Without inventors, no country would have inventions; and without inventions and innovations, where is the technological advancement going to spring from? Therefore, the question is: how is the Nigerian government working towards ensuring that the Gilberts, Omehs, Aliyus and Adepojus in the country and the Diaspora have access to the support and structure they would need to reach their potentials for the benefit of the nation? If the government knows what it is doing, I strongly believe that NOTAP can significantly help to put Nigeria on the world map of technological innovations and advancement in a matter of years. More than ever before, we need to harness our technological inventions and innovations to enhancing sustainable socio-economic development in the country.
History of NOTAP: Nigeria’s First Step towards a Technological Revolution
For a long time, there had been a wide gap in the acquisition of foreign technology in the country. From the Nigerian angle, this unhealthy gap had to be filled to remedy many of the challenges being faced. This led to the establishment of the National Office of Industrial Property (NOIP) in 1979. Established by virtue of Decree No. 70 of 1979, NOIP was an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
In 1992, NOIP was renamed the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP). This was by virtue of section 1(1) of the National Office of Industrial Property (Change of Name, etc) Decree No. 82 of 1992. Also, section 2 of the Decree redesignated the principal Act as the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion Act Cap. N62 LFN 2004 (the Act).
Apart from ensuring that the name reflected the wider functions and roles of the body, there was a need to clearly distinguish it from any similar government parastatal or agency. Also, its role in the aspects of technology transfer, development of R&D, and promotion of indigenous technology enterprises needed to be brought to the fore.
In the new world economy, governments can no longer afford to take the back seat. The Office needed to be actively involved in both developmental and promotional activities, rather than playing just regulatory roles. This was to improve on its efforts towards attracting foreign investments, and development of indigenous technology.