By | October 25, 2018

University of Namibia Innovation takes ­centre stage 2018

Under the theme ‘promoting strategic innovative research and development for Namibia’s industrialisation, the University of Namibia (Unam) Katima Mulilo campus held its annual research and innovation day on 16 October.

The day serves as a platform for providing learning and knowledge-sharing opportunities for both upcoming and seasoned researchers and academics at the university.

The upcoming researchers also gained first-hand knowledge on how certain critical research and publication processes are achieved, and showcased the rich and diverse research potential and capabilities of Unam.

This year’s research and innovation day focused on the exhibition of physical research and innovative products developed by Unam’s researchers and academics for public view.

The event assembled physical research and innovative products from all Unam campuses and regional centres and members of industries and the general public were invited to view and partner with the university in interested areas.

Speaking at the event, Frank Kavishe, acting pro-vice chancellor of Unam, said quality research and innovation outputs is one of the ways used to rank universities worldwide, and because of this, each academic has an important role to play.

“While the slogan ‘publish or perish’ is not an official gazetted clause in our policy documents, it is a reminder to academics who aspire to grow in their job today,” he said.

Kavishe added it is important to realise that the university has the best human intellectual capacity needed to actualise the country’s national development plans and create a prosperous and knowledge-based society, as envisioned in Vision 2030, the Harambee Prosperity Plan and NDP5.

“The university will need to effectively network and synergise with local, national and international partners to effectively carry route this mandate,” he said.

Kavishe said there has been an increase in research and innovation activities at the Katima Mulilo campus.

Since launch of the campus’ five-year research agenda in 2014, it has maintained an increased contribution to the Unam’s scholarly research outputs.

According to Kavishe, the campus achieved 100% of its research output targets in 2014, recording 27 publications of which 19 articles were in peer-reviewed journals.

In 2015, the campus again achieved 100% of its research output targets, with a total of 48 articles, comprising 19 refereed journal articles, eight books, one book chapter, one monograph and 19 conference papers.

In 2016, the campus achieved 90% of its research output targets, with 32 articles, comprising 18 refereed journal articles, four books, one book chapter and nine conference papers.

In 2017, the campus achieved 75% of its targets, in terms of articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

“I am also understand through appropriate reporting channels that the campus has already achieved 65% of its research outputs for the current year, with 13 articles published in peer-reviewed journals,” he said.

Delivering the keynote address during the event, Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu said the theme cannot come at a better time, considering the current global economic meltdown from which Namibia is not immune.

“For Namibia to navigate out of the current economic challenges, we need to explore strategic innovative research and developmental areas that will produce short, medium and long-term economic benefits with direct impacts on the livelihoods of all Namibians.

“The ability to create, distribute and exploit knowledge through innovation has become a major source of competitive advantage, wealth creation and improvements in the standard of livelihoods,” Sampofu said.

He said according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Namibia is ranked 90th on the Global Competitiveness Index out of the 137 countries.

The World Economic Forum report also showed that Namibia ranks highly for its institutions (44th), infrastructure (67th), financial market development (50th), and labour market efficiency (33rd).

It was also rated poorly for the quality of its higher education (111th), health and primary education (110th), business sophistication (87th), technological readiness (89th), macroeconomic environment (107th) and market size (111th).

“In confronting these poorly rated areas and even improving on the highly rated areas, we need to explore and commit ourselves to strategic innovative research and developmental activities. Let us, therefore, invest our intellects and energies in these vast research and developmental areas,” Sampofu said.

He added that Namibian universities and local and international partners should develop efficient synergies, in order to stimulate and facilitate strategic research and development that will satisfactorily address Namibia’s socio-economic challenges and develop capacities for job creation.

“If Namibia as a country invests more in research and development, its economy will grow faster,” he said.

Sampofu also said Namibia is in urgent need of good capacity for innovation, high quality scientific research and strong private sector involvement and collaboration in research and development.

Thus, there must be new ways for tertiary education organisations to work together with business and industry, to align the training and with needed skills.