Consistent with its recognition of the academia as a central stakeholder in its commitment to linkages and local development sphere of Nigeria’s telecommunications sector, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has awarded fresh research grants and endowed professorial chairs in some Nigerian universities in the sum of N233 million.
From the total sum, N172.5 million was awarded to support 13 proposals found to have met the stipulated criteria in the advertised 2021 Request for Proposal (RFP) for Telecommunications-Based Research Innovations from Nigerian Tertiary Institutions (research grant) Programme. Additionally, three universities received the sum of N20 million each for endowments of the professorial chairs by the Commission.
Speaking at the award ceremony, which took place at the Commission’s Head Office in Maitama, Abuja, on Thursday, April 7, 2022, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the event demonstrated Commission’s strong resolve in advancing the impact of digital technologies on the national economy, using indigenous products and solutions.
While presenting award letters to the Lead Researchers of the beneficiaries of the 13 research grants, Danbatta said, under the Telecommunications-Based Research Innovations, tertiary institutions submit detailed and well-thought-out research proposals, on specific thematic areas provided by the Commission. The proposal is expected to result in the development of commercially-viable prototypes as concrete harvests.
According to Danbatta, in 2021 RfP, the Commission received a total of 55 research proposals that focused on five emerging technology areas, namely: Fifth Generation (5G) deployment; Innovative Clean Energy; Advanced Method of Quality of Service (QoS)/Quality of Experience Management and Test Mechanism; Internet of Things (IoT); Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) Technology; and Monitoring and Localising of Drones
“After thorough evaluations, 13 proposals were found to have met the stipulated criteria. Indeed, this is a clear testimony to the objectivity and painstaking approach to the evaluation process aimed at ensuring that the best quality is achieved and only researches that could produce prototypes with the potential of providing solutions to both local and global challenges were selected,” Danbatta said as he congratulates the 13 successful research awardees.
The EVC also presented dummy cheques of N20 million each to the Vice-Chancellors of three Nigerian universities, namely: University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto; and Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, who are the beneficiaries of the NCC’s Professorial Chair Endowments.
“The Commission has endowed professorial chairs in tertiary institutions across the country, as a mechanism in entrenching innovations in our tertiary institutions, as well as having graduates that are “industry-ready”. The endowment of professorial chairs in universities is one of the Commission’s initiatives in supporting the academia to focus on research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in order to enhance the advancements of emerging technologies,” Danbatta stated, to underscore the purpose for instituting professorial chairs in tertiary institutions.
The fresh endowment in the three universities brings to seven, the number of universities that the Commission has endowed professorial chairs. Earlier, the NCC had instituted professorial chairs at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State; Bayero University, Kano, Kano State; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State; and University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Meanwhile, the EVC stated that while the implementation of the endowment is through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Commission and each benefitting university just as the Commission recently included the sighing of MoU as part of the implementation of the Telecommunications-Based Research Innovations.
The EVC stated that with the latest awards and endowments, the Commission has committed more than N660 million to Nigerian tertiary institutions for ICT-focused research innovations. This is in demonstration of commitment to driving the attainment of the goals of the Federal Government’s agenda on the digital economy, as captured in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030.
Earlier in his remarks, NCC’s Head of Research and Development (HRD), Kelechi Nwankwo, thanked the EVC for his vision to continually deepen collaboration between the Commission and the Academia. Nwankwo expressed optimism that the Management of the Commission would continue to allocate the requisite resources to research, development and innovations that are necessary for the industry to continue to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
The HRD said the initiatives which are policy-driven were instituted as proof of Commission’s appreciation of the importance of working with stakeholders to engender innovations and build indigenous technological capabilities that would strengthen the ICT ecosystem, not only in the provision of services but also in the development of the communications manufacturing and supply sector within the Nigerian economy. He said collaborations such as the one with academia are in line with the NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP), 2020-2024 because strategic partnering has been identified as a critical pillar for the attainment of NCC’s corporate objectives.
Nwankwo encouraged the beneficiaries of the research grants and the universities that benefited from the endowment of professorial chairs, to put the financial resources into proper use that will produce research outputs that address societal problems and contribute to further growth of the telecoms sector.
Expressing appreciation on behalf of the beneficiaries, the Vice-Chancellor, Usman Danfodio University, Prof. Lawal Bilbis, assured the Commission that the funds will be put to judicious use.