Innovation is commonly defined as the introduction of something new—a fresh idea, method, or device. However, during my studies in technology management, I discovered that innovation can also encompass improvements on existing products, processes, or ideas. It can even be location-dependent, as what is considered new in one place may not be so elsewhere. Thus, the concept of newness in innovation can encompass outright novelty, improvement, or even the adoption of ideas from other locations.
Life is dynamic, not static. It demands constant improvement across all its facets. Human beings need to innovate, organisations—both public and private—need to innovate, and nations as a whole need to innovate. Innovation is the backbone of any company, and embracing it is crucial for striving and competing, particularly in the business world. Those who fail to innovate will stagnate and may be surpassed by competitors, ultimately fading into oblivion.
Recently, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in Nigeria underwent a name change, adding “Innovation” to its nomenclature, becoming the “Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.” This change sparked much excitement as if the name change alone would revolutionise the ministry, its agencies and the field of science, technology and innovation as a whole. While the name change is a positive step, it is imperative to go beyond mere rhetoric. Charity must begin at home and the ministry must urgently set the agenda and provide clear direction.
Over the past two years, the ministry has organised numerous programmes with impressive themes. However, the question remains: What have been the outcomes? Whenever the government rolls out a programme or agenda, the ministry swiftly jumps on board. While this eagerness is commendable, I believe it must be aligned with an existing blueprint that the ministry is working with. The lack of stable leadership within the ministry perpetuates this issue. This year (2023) has already witnessed a change in permanent secretary, who oversaw the 2023 STI Expo and the National Council on Science, Technology and Innovation (NCSTI) meeting. With a new leader at the helm, there is a learning curve that needs to be addressed. The same applies to ministerial appointments. To take actionable steps towards making the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation an innovative entity, focused and consistent leadership is vital. The ministry cannot lead the nation’s innovation efforts without this crucial element. I have previously argued that knowledgeable leadership is essential for sustainable development, particularly when driven by science, technology and innovation. I reiterate the importance of inspiring leadership within the FMSTI to foster innovation.
Furthermore, let us consider the period between 2017 and 2020, during which the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was implemented. This plan aimed to restore economic growth, invest in Nigerians, and build a globally competitive economy. The FMSTI aligned itself with this plan and made it the focal point of its programmes. However, despite the fanfare, what concrete innovations emerged that truly propelled Nigeria towards global economic competitiveness?
More recently, the past administration launched Nigeria Agenda 2050, with the aim of achieving a per capita GDP of $33,328 per annum by 2050, placing Nigeria among the world’s top middle-income economies. Once again, the ministry jumped onto this agenda. The focus of the last NCSTI meeting was the 2050 Agenda. This raises the question: What blueprint is the ministry, now infused with the term “innovation,” operating with? Had the government not introduced the 2050 Agenda, what would have been the meeting’s focus? Is the ministry lacking creative ideas?
To ensure that the new nomenclature goes beyond mere rhetoric and produces tangible results, the FMSTI must urgently develop a blueprint designed with sustainable development across all sectors in mind. They do not need to reinvent the wheel; the recently reviewed National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation is more than sufficient. With a well-executed implementation plan, any government agenda can be addressed within this policy. It is comprehensive and detailed, offering guidance to chart a path towards transformative innovations for the nation. Additionally, the current government must appoint leaders who possess a deep understanding of science, technology, and innovation—not political opportunists whose sole aim is to divert the meagre resources intended for development.
Science, technology, and innovation endeavours extend far beyond rhetoric and the use of fancy themes or names. They are serious endeavours that require systematic and deliberate action. They demand well-crafted plans, knowledgeable leadership and clear-cut goals that lead to sustainable outcomes. If Nigeria is to achieve meaningful development within the science, technology, and innovation space, it is time to move beyond rhetoric and start taking decisive and actionable steps.