This is the continuation of my last post on The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP): Supporting Inventions and Innovations towards Indigenous Technological Advancement in Nigeria. To read this, you can find it here. Today, let’s start from the organisational structure of NOTAP (the National Office), and discuss the functions of the Office.
Organisational Structure of NOTAP
The National Office is a body corporate with perpetual succession, and a common seal. It may sue or be sued in its corporate name (section 1(2) of the Act). According to section 2 of the Act, it has a Governing Council that is responsible for the formulation of policy for the National Office and the discharge of other functions the Act confers on it. This Governing Council is comprised of a Chairman and other members. Membership is drawn from certain ministries, agencies and institutions. It consists of one representative each from the Federal ministries of Finance, Internal Affairs, Justice, Commerce and Works and Housing. Others are one representative each of the National Science and Technology Development Agency, universities in Nigeria, and one from the polytechnics and colleges of technology in Nigeria. And the Director.
Section 10(1) and (2) of the Act provides for the office of the Director of the National Office. He is to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister. The Director is the chief executive officer of the National Office, and holds office on terms and conditions stated in his appointment letter, or determined by the President or Council from time to time.
The structure of the National Office as being operated today is not different. Although the Director is known as Director General, this is to more conveniently recognise the existence of other Directors from various departments of the National Office who report directly to the Director General (DG). I believe this arrangement has been accommodated by section 10(4) of the Act, where it is stated that the Governing Council can appoint from time to time such other staff that may be required for the efficient performance of the functions conferred on the National Office under the Act. Therefore, it has the Administration/Finance (A/F) Department Monitoring, Consultancy and Extension Services (MCES) Department, Technology Evaluation, Development and Promotion (TEDP) Department, and the Technology Acquisition, Documentation and Information (TADI) Department. There are also six units in the National Office namely, Information Technology and Consultancy Services; Public Relations and Protocol, and the Legal Unit. Others are the Internal Audit, Procurement unit, and Lagos Zonal office. The Lagos extension is attached to the office of the Director General.
Functions of the National Office: Promoting and Developing Indigenous Technology for National Advancement
The National Office is statutorily mandated to monitor, on a continuing basis, the transfer of foreign technology to Nigeria and to provide for other related matters. These are the words of the Act establishing the Office as far back as September, 1979.
In critically examining how the National Office has fared so far, let us briefly look at its functions as stated under section 6 of the Act. Firstly, the National Office is to encourage a more efficient process for the identification and selection of foreign technology. Also, it is to develop the negotiating skills of Nigerians with a view to ensuring the acquisition of the best contractual terms and conditions in the transfer of foreign technology agreements. Other functions include the provision of a more efficient process for the adaptation of imported technology, and the registration of all foreign technology transfer agreements having effect in Nigeria. And it also monitors on a continuous basis the implementation of any registered contract or agreement pursuant to the Act. It mainly emphasises the need to efficiently register eligible foreign technology transfer agreements in Nigeria. Also the need to originally develop indigenous technology is, to put it mildly, not prioritised. This foreign dependence mentality is understandable, considering that at the time the Act was made in 1979, commercially-viable indigenous technological development in Nigeria was at best still at its embryonic stage. Local content and capacity building in Information Technology (IT) was still dot in a pie chart. We had a long way to go. But over three decades later, is this still the case? I don’t think so.
This is why a closer look at the functions of the National Office as stated above would reveal its roles are largely regulatory. And such regulation is mainly geared towards striking the best possible balance in favour of any Nigerian inventor or innovator who was involved in the negotiation of transferring technology. But in terms of actively developing local content and improving capacity building in technology, the National Office has been left literally lame by those who brought it into being.
Interestingly, the National Office must have recognised this challenge when it subsequently changed its approach in the job of taking Nigeria to the next level in technological advancement for global competitiveness. How did the National Office achieve this? It embraced a new way of achieving its goals by broadening its activities to include the commercialisation of R&D Results and Inventions. Although there is nowhere in the Act establishing the National Office where this was stated, it must have been an innovative response to the challenge of putting Nigeria on the world map of globally competitive technologies with an Act made in the 20th century. It would perhaps be safe to say that this expansion has been accommodated by the Act since it empowered the National office ‘to provide for other related matters.’
On its website, the National Office states commercialisation of R&D results and inventions as one of its mandates. It outlined some of the ways they intend to achieve this, namely, the promotion of locally generated technologies, promotion of Intellectual Property, and the promotion and encouragement of the development of creative and inventive skills among Nigerian scientists, researchers, inventors and innovators.
Therefore, to drive this new approach effectively, the vision of the National Office became more developmental and daring. As published on its website, the vision is to:
move Nigeria from the periphery to the dominant centre of global industrial power structure within the shortest possible time and make her a major global power house of the 21st Century through an efficient Technology Acquisition Strategy and a vibrant innovation and R&D commercialisation programme.
The mission is to ensure ‘the acceleration of Nigeria’s drive towards a rapid technological revolution by an efficient acquisition/absorption of foreign technology and a concerted development of indigenous technological capability through a proactive promotion of innovation and commercialization of technology.
From the vision and mission stated above, the two main ideas are the need for an efficient Technology Acquisition Strategy (TAS), and a commercially-viable and innovative R$D) drive.
There is no doubt that the National Office has a lot of work to do. It needs to be able to identify talented Nigerian researchers, inventors and innovators. And the enabling environment would also need to be put in place to provide robust support to them. This cannot be realised without a cross-collaboration with all stakeholders such as related agencies in the Federal Science and Technology Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Information Communications Technology, and the Federal Ministry of International Trade and Commerce. Also, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Works and Housing, Youths and Social Development, Justice, Works and Housing, and the Ministry of Education must all be involved as collaborators. I believe the drafters of the Act establishing the National Office must have also appreciated this need when it ensured that the membership of the Governing Council had representations from most of these ministries (Section 2(2) of the Act). And I must add that their state counterparts should not be left out.
The National Office involves in various activities geared towards the realisation of its vision and mission. Some of these activities include evaluation/registration of Technology Transfer Agreements; promotion of Intellectual Property; technology advisory and support services; commercialisation of R&D results, etc.
It has established a number of Intellectual Property Technology Transfer Offices (IPTTOs) in Universities, Polytechnics and Research Institutions in Nigeria. The IPTTO has been created to provide a vibrant portfolio for both industrial property rights. This is through patenting, and technology licensing to support the ideas from these institutions towards developing a vibrant patent culture in the country. In this way, avenues for a structured system of support that provide incentives to identified Nigerian inventors, innovations and researchers towards viable partnerships. This is meant to create that needed nexus between the university and research institutions, industries, and markets. There has been too much gap between these stakeholders, a situation that has resulted in the current low level of indigenous technological advancement in Nigeria.
With IPTTOs, universities and R&D institutions will have access to a robust IP system as a source of technology information, and wealth creation through the selection and exploration of IPs. Working closely with the National Office, the technological and commercial potentials of these selected IPs would then be evaluated. Also, it is notable that one of the activities of the National Office has been to create a link among our research institutions, industries, venture capitalists and financial institutions, Local, State and Federal governments, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In my next post, I will be concluding this discourse by looking at the National Office and the commercialisation of R&D and how this can greatly impact on the Nigerian economy. Keep a date!