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COMMERCIALIZATION OF INDIGENOUS

ENGINEERING INVENTIONS AND


INNOVATIONS AND THE PACKAGING
FACTOR
Engr Edwin A. Umoh, MNSE

Centre for Research and Entrepreneurship Development


Federal Polytechnic, Kaura Namoda, Nigeria

Engr Ahmed A. Lugard, MNSE

Office of the Rector


Federal polytechnic, Kaura Namoda, Nigeria

Preamble
Packaging and commercialization of indigenous
engineering in Nigeria
Perspectives on packaging
Catalogue of selected engineering innovations in
Nigerian Polytechnics
Tackling the packaging challenge
Conclusion

Preamble
The theme of this years Assembly throw up
several questions that arouse the mind.
This paper revolves around three of such
questions:
Which engineering are we commercializing?
Which engineering should we commercialize?
Which engineering can we commercialize?

Which engineering are we commercializing?

Commercialization of engineering (COE) is the


exploitation of engineering for financial gains
COE is engineering business in which the results of
R & D are translated in marketable products and
sold to end-users
In this paper, we will focus on dominant
engineering products such as consumer
electronics, automobile, machineries etc
COE has taken place in Nigeria prior to
independence and after. During these periods,
trading in imported vehicles, trains, electronics and
other
engineering
goods
constituted
Commercialization of engineering

Which engineering are we commercializing? Contd

This type of COE profited investors (individuals


and corporate entities in the trade) and not Nigeria
if we situate national development in the
context of self-reliance and local content
development.
After more than 50 years, Nigeria is still
commercializing engineering for other nations
A recent survey show that engineering products
market (electronics, automobile, machineries etc)
in Nigeria is saturated with foreign made products
Can this type of COMMERCIALIZATION OF
ENGINEERING engender national development?

Which engineering are we commercializing? Contd

Commercializing engineering for other nations


has:
Quench our hunger and thirst for self-reliance
Stunt tech growth by conditioning us to rely on
the sweat of other nations for our survival
Skewed our sense of national pride resulting in
inferiority complexes. The fixation on
technology transfer is one of it
No nation can be proud of being famed as a
major distributor of foreign-made
technologies a veritable dumping ground.

Which engineering should we commercialize?


Broadly speaking, there are two types of engineering
products in Nigeria Foreign-made and locally-made
products
Foreign-made products are those that are engineered in
foreign lands and exported wholesale to end-users in
Nigeria e.g. automobiles, consumer electronics,
machineries etc and
Locally-made products falls into two categories- those
assembled in Nigeria through joint ventures with foreign
firms and wholly indigenous products that are contrived
and manufactured locally in Nigeria
local content is the criterion for ascribing indigenous
status to a product

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

Commercialization of non-indigenous (foreign)


products (franchise) is a global practice by
nations including developed nations, seen as a
platform to brings variety into the market
However, appropriate policies are put in place
to protect national interest and assure
dominance of indigenous engineering over
foreign counterparts
This is not so with Nigeria due to policy
somersaults and weak market dynamics

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

Do we have indigenous engineering to


commercialize?
The search for answer will indict us as a nation
and as engineers for frittering away
opportunities for development of indigenous
engineering.
During the SAP era in the 1980s, in spite of the
decline in manufacturing outputs, some set of
entrepreneurs were emerging in some parts of
eastern Nigerian where industrial clusters
sprung up in places like Aba, Nnewi, Onitsha etc

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

These clusters were dubbed Taiwan of Africa


These businessmen produced imitation of
established Japanese brands of automobile
spare parts, motorcycle spare parts and
electrical products
Their entrepreneurial sagacity was a courageous PUSH
for technological self-reliance and national development
which may have resulted to establishment of a middle
market in Nigeria
Unfortunately, NIGERIA and the cynical public welcomed
their products with scorns and derisive stings
Their products were called fake, Taiwan, imitation

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

The history of technology shows that many


technology giants of today took off from the
base of imitation, formally know as Reverse
Engineering in learned environments. For
example,
America imitated the Russian feat (add technology) of
sending man to moon
Also liberated German physicists and scientists to
imitate their knowledge for the famed Manhattan
Project
China imitates western technologies to attained her
current technological status

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

The point here is that , in the context of


technological development, imitation (Reverse
engineering) is a knowledge and frontier-expanding
technique that has been utilized by nations to
consolidate their gains and strides
The UNDENIABLE FACT is , had Nigeria paid
attention to those seeds of technological
possibilities planted by those self-determined
entrepreneurs by providing state support through
enabling policies and incentives as possibly done to
the Taiwanese, American or Chinese entrepreneurs,
we could possibly be visible in the engineering tech
market today

Which engineering should we commercialize? Contd

Merely bemoaning our condition will be


counterproductive.
A pragmatic approach to salvaging what
remains of our technological self as a nation is
to take an INWARD LOOK at what we have on
ground and anchor on them in a renewed quest
for technological development that will result to
commercializing our OWN technologies.
This takes us to the last question and the main
focus of this paper

Which engineering can we commercialize?

This question presupposes that there are


technologies to commercialize which elicits the
need to prioritize during the decision making
process
The pervading belief among Nigerians is that
technology (especially of the electronics and
mechanical engineering variants) has so
advanced to the extent that inventions and
innovations engineered by Nigerians and in
Nigeria would be of no marketable value in the
face of current technological realities

Which engineering can we commercialize?

This belief has fueled consumers preference for foreign-made


electronics and mechanical products
While it is indisputable that global technology has advanced in all its
ramifications, it is worth noting that there are teeming millions of
consumers whose taste could be satisfied with homegrown
indigenous inventions and innovations
Indigenous engineering inventions and innovations are those that
have moderate or high local content and are capable of meeting the
peculiar needs of an environment or persons without deference to
sophistication
There are many subsistent farmers who in spite of technological
advancement and trickles of modern farming technologies into their
domains, are still burdened with traditional farming methods and
tools.
For instance, in many rural communities in the North, farmers
depend on traditional tools and methods to de-stone Acha (Digitaria
exilis), thresh sorghum (dawa), decorticate groundnut and other cash
crops

Which engineering can we commercialize? Contd

In the Southern axis, farmers still make use of


mortar and pestle to extract palm oil from kernel,
stone to crack kernel shell and manual methods to
separate melon.
These farmers are searching for technologies that
would ameliorate their problems without
deference to sophistication
In the light of this, we believe that marketable
HOMEGROWN engineering innovations is the
answer to their quest.
This brings us to the central message of this paper
Packaging of indigenous inventions and
innovations

Packaging and commercialization of indigenous


engineering in Nigeria
Packaging is the technology of enclosing or protecting products. It
affects the elegance, functionality, durability, visual acceptability and
marketability of products
In the context of commercialization of indigenous inventions and
innovations, packaging is a complex problem that affects our identity,
choice and investment decisions.
It has the potential of acting as a bridge over the valley of death
between research resources and commercialization resources
Packaging is a major reason why indigenous inventions and
innovations have continued to rot away in R&D centres and
educational institutions in Nigeria
A product is either packaged to survive competition or packaged to
perish due to competition
in commercialization of
Infact, packaging affect everything
engineering

Perspectives on packaging
To understand why packaging of indigenous
inventions and innovations is especially
difficult, we must look at it from various
perspectives
Invention

Perspectives
on
packaging

Innovation
Marketing tool
Identification tag
Morale booster

Perspectives on packaging contd


As an integral part of the invention process
Organization/linking of units/blocks to form well-defined
schematic/block /circuit diagrams is part of package

As an innovation
Involves novelty and creativity
Innovation is a repackaging process

As a marketing tool
Transcends it core purpose of protecting
Now a bait and pricing criterion
Determines marketability of a product

Perspectives on packaging contd


As an identification tag
Is a barrier to diffusion of technology due to intellectual
property problem
Leads to concealment of engineering
inventions/innovations
Contributes to the crisis of funding (Government,
institutional, public-spirited persons etc)
Makes it difficult to identify with Made in Nigeria
technologies (Motor Car, Plants, machineries, electronics
etc)
Made in Nigeria tag is part of packaging

Catalogue of selected engineering innovations


in Nigerian Polytechnics
Fixation on technological indicators at the national
level gives the impression that nothing
technologically worthwhile is happening in Nigeria
As a result, many small and big steps at local levels
of individuals and institutions are concealed
through poor documentation by innovators and
institutions
An entrenched culture of design and discard
pervades Nigerian institutions
We present here some examples of marketable
technologies engineered by Nigerian innovators
but are left to rot away in workshops due to
packaging problem

Catalogue of selected engineering innovations


in Nigerian Polytechnics contd

(a)
(a) Motorized Groundnut Decorticator

(b)

(c)

(b) Bean Shelling machine Melon


Shelling machine

Tackling the packaging challenge


We need to look INWARD within Nigeria for
viable solutions
For instance, the intellectual and technological
capabilities of Centres of Excellence like
National Agency for Science and Engineering
Infrastructure
(NASENI),
Engineering
development Institute (EDI), Power Equipment
and Electrical Machinery Development
Institute (PEEMADI) should be maximize to
fulfill their existential mandates

Tackling the packaging challenge contd


1. There should be
a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) to collaboration
between these centres of excellence and
educational institutions. It should provide for
a viable platform for transferring engineering
innovations from engineering faculties to
these centres for refinement of contents and
better packaging standards through better
manufacturing processes. Innovations

Tackling the packaging challenge contd


2. The implemnentation of (1) necessarily require the
provision of a legal framework that subsume
intellectual property right and management
(patents, copyright, trademarks) and dispute
resolution mechanisms. These can be ably resolved
by interested parties through extant laws
3. Government should strengthen the capacity and
capability of these institutes and similar centres to
effectively play their assigned roles in advancing
engineering development through improved
funding and personnel development

Tackling the packaging challenge contd


4. Need to expose students and engineering personnel to
advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) through
intensive long-term education. To this end, the curriculum of
engineering schools (especially Polytechnics) should be
revisited to give prominent place to AMT while concurrently
equipping faculties with AMT facilities blending of theory
and practice
5. Owing to the low content of AMT in the product
development cycles of indigenous manufacturing firms, it is
imperative for COREN and NSE to take AMT to their
doorsteps through workshops and short courses for
manufacturers. Eventhough a paradigm shift from traditional
manufacturing to advanced manufacturing techniques will
take several years of unbroken commitment to materialize,
the knowledge acquired could serve as springboard to take
investment risks in this technology at the appropriate time

Tackling the packaging challenge contd


6. COREN and NSE should collaborate with the
Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and
relevant agencies including Corporate Affairs
Commission (CAC) to open database of enterprises
whose core missions is the advancement of indigenous
engineering if this has not been done already. This will
assist to delineate these enterprises according to their
core specialties with a view to offer appropriate
incentives that will support their growth and
competitiveness. These outfits are clustered in Aba,
Nnewi, Onitsha, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Ogun, Jos etc.
according to a report, there are over 33,000 middle
level enterprises in US. HOW MANY DO WE HAVE IN
NIGERIA?

Tackling the packaging challenge contd


7.

Governments should create enabling environment through


formulation of policies for greater private sector involvement in
indigenous engineering development. GOVERNMENT ALONE
CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. Sustainable policies that protect their
interest and accelerate national development will spur them to take
risks to fund R&D activities of their firms and also contribute to
funding in other institutions.
Another way of creating enabling environment is patronage. As an
example, imagine a Federal ministry, state government or publicspirited persons signing an MoU with R&D centres to produce
10,000 units of motley brands of Acha de-stoning machines,
groundnut decorticators and other food processing machines for
distribution to rural farmers. The ensuing competition could
hopefully usher in a new era of improved indigenous technologies
and a continuum of marketable engineering products.

Conclusion
As this paper might have shown, packaging is a complex
challenge in Nigeria as it constitutes a major obstacle
to commercialization of indigenous engineering
inventions and innovations. Despite the commercial
viability of many indigenous engineering products,
they have rendered unmarketable by the packaging
problem. However, it is not too late for us to
restrategize to conquer this challenge as we patiently
revamp our industries through widespread
application of AMT , change our attitudes towards
locally manufactured technologies, provide enabling
environment for local entrepreneurs and create a
conducive atmosphere for learning AMT in schools. If
we begin now, the prognosis of our technological
future will be reassuring.

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