The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has started the process of developing an Innovation Ecosystem to power sustainable national development, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, the sector Minister, has said.
Speaking at the Citi FM Innovation Summit, held in Accra as part of the Citi FM Business Festival, the Minister said a team of experts, including the Dean of Engineering at Ashesi University, was thus helping to formulate a strategic Science and Technology Policy towards this endeavour.
The team would also recommend an apex to oversee the development and mainstreaming of Science and Technology; as well as the establishment of a fund for this purpose.
The Minster explained that the Government’s allocation for research, which now stood at 0.025 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), would be increased to one per cent of GDP; and increased over time to 2.5 per cent of GDP.
Prof Frimpong Boateng, who is an innovator, explained that Ghana must build an ‘Innovation Ecosystem’ in order to achieve sustainable development because the development of any nation was dependent on the level of its innovation, especially its capacity to make machines to address its problems.
Prof Frimpong Boateng said to build that ecosystem, it was important to promote Science Education in the schools and then establish and resource research and development institutions.
He explained that it was important for Ghana’s educational system to move farther from teaching students only the ‘what’ to teaching them the ‘why’ and the ‘how,’ as these would foster creativity and innovation.
He also urged students and innovators to develop the ‘who’ of their knowledge, saying networking was very important in connecting them to the right people to push their innovations.
He emphasised that the linkages among academia, knowledge institutions, industry and the government must also be improved for the common good.
Additionally, the right environment for innovation would be created by improving the contracting, company and patenting laws in the country, he noted.
While acknowledging the challenges that innovators faced in the country, the Minister, however, expressed optimism of bright prospects for innovators in the coming days, explaining that the Ministry was addressing the basic problem for innovation: the weak Science and Technology Education framework.
Under the theme “Creating our Future”, panellists at the Summit interrogated the core issues affecting innovation in the Ghana, including mainstreaming innovation, monetising innovations, and leadership for innovation.
Mr Michael Quarshie, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Persol Systems Limited, urged innovators to find ways to bring their innovations to the market to monetise them.
He said they should, therefore, find ways of locking their innovations by patenting them and finding the value, identifying the market and pitching them.
He urged Ghanaians to celebrate local innovators and bring their ideas and innovations to light for the benefit of society.
Ms Estelle Akofio-Sowah, the Country Manager for Google Ghana, buttressed that point, and urged innovators to identify big problems and find big solutions to them instead of limiting themselves to micro-scale ideas.
“It is difficult, but we don’t have a choice; it’s our country and we must innovate to solve the problems,” she stated.
Prof Fred McBagonluri, the Dean of the Department of Engineering at the Ashesi University, expressed optimism for innovation, saying those showcased at the Summit, which provided solutions for some of the most critical challenges faced in Energy, Sanitation, were testimonies.
He said there was the need for a clear national policy for Science, Technology and Innovation and a visionary leadership to drive the innovation agenda.
“The best time to be alive is now; We have so many unique challenges as a nation…we are at the right point in history where we can innovate to develop our country and all I see is nothing but a sea of opportunities,” he stated.
Mr Bright Simons, the Founder and President of mPedigree, however, was not very optimistic about the state of innovation in Ghana.
He said innovation had still not been mainstreamed and innovators had to justify their work to those whose problems they solved.
He condemned the lack of urgency to innovate, explaining that innovation was mostly seen from a consumer perspective instead of from a creative one.
“Sometimes, only pessimism would create the urgency needed to solve the problem,” he maintained.
The Summit highlighted the work of three innovators: Sesinam Dagadu of SnooCode, Dr Mark Amo-Boateng of the University of Energy and Natural Resources and Raymond Ategbi Okrofu of Safi Sana Ghana Limited.