By Iyanam Isangedighi
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, has called on the academic community and industrial sector in Nigeria to embrace a new approach to sustainable industrial growth by ridding themselves of the mentality of being perpetual receiver or giver of research grants and donations.
Delivering the 2nd Convocation Lecture of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE), Effurun, Delta State, Dr. Baru said a more sustainable relationship between the parties should be one in which the industrial sector buys profitable ideas from the academia to deploy for efficient production and service delivery.
The lecture entitled: The Role of Petroleum University in Bridging the Gap between Industry and Academia for Sustainable Growth and Economic Development, also provided extensive recipe to achieve a win-win relationship for the academia and the oil and gas industry.
Citing examples from other climes, the NNPC GMD noted that corporate long-runners like BP and IBM have created substantial material impact on corporate-level performance through a wide range of collaborations.
He said universities contribute vital research to the oil and gas industry by finding new ways to boost efficiency and extract oil and gas from the earth in an environmentally conscious and sustainable manner.
The NNPC helmsman posited that the industrial sector must make sustained efforts in supporting higher education by providing the critical support needed to help students develop technical skills that can make them employable.
Providing a practical example of such approach, Dr. Baru said through the years, NNPC has provided support to the academia under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes in so many ways that include, but not limited to, infrastructure, research and development as well as human capacity building.
He related the story of Mrs. Christiana Edwards Ani, a past winner of the NNPC National Science Quiz Competition, who currently works a lecturer in FUPRE.
He noted that the academia–industry partnership offered the academia the benefit of access to resources and facilities in an environment where ideas flowed freely and new concepts were positively encouraged, adding that this would provide a valuable opportunity that could translate to a competitive advantage for companies.
Such avenue he remarked also affords industries the opportunity to overcome the limitations of their external research and development and also be at the edge of acquiring new scientific and technological development through a successful collaboration with the academia.
He emphasized that the collaboration between the academia and the industry should be for mutual benefits and understanding which will brng about determination by the academia to boost the quantum and quality of research and student capacity which in the long run will equally benefit the industry.
He listed some of the steps to achieve a sustainable collaboration between the academia and industrial sector to include: development of entrepreneurship cells in universities and technology incubations centres involvement of alumni as mentor for students; setting up of venture funds to support innovative entrepreneurship; and provision of incentives for research and development.
Dr. Baru called on the graduating students to look inward and ask themselves the pertinent question: “How do we make use of what we learnt here to impact this important industry?”
Responding on behalf of FUPRE, Professor (Mrs.) Prekeyi Tawari-Fufeyin, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), who stood in for the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Akii Ibhadode, commended the GMD for the elaborative lecture and far-reaching recipe to achieve a balanced industry-academia relationship.
Prof. Fufeyin pledged commitment of the university to work assiduously with players in the Oil and Gas Industry towards achieving the set mandate of the university.
The FUPRE DVC called for greater support and extensive funding from the industry while imploring players to see FUPRE as their baby which must be nurtured to full bloom.