Windhoek-The National Commission on Research, Science, Technology and Innovation (NCRST) has invested over N$50 million during the last three years in individual young innovators and various research institutions.
The NCRST is responsible for promoting, coordinating and developing research, science, technology and innovation in Namibia.
NCRST chief executive officer Dr Eino Mvula told New Era yesterday, on the sidelines of a signing ceremony for the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the research body and the International University of Management (IUM), that grants were awarded to individuals and research institutions who submitted bankable projects.
He said the N$50 million “was not just dished out”, but funding has been accessed based on the progress made by recipients with their projects.
“Even if you are funded N$200 000 we won’t give it to you as a one-off, we will give the money as we implement the activities. For each grant an agreement is signed between NCRST, the grant recipient and the head of the research institution. This is to ensure public funds are used for its intended purpose,” Mvula explained.
The three-year MoU aims to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of each party as they relate to the planning of collaborative enterprise research, development, innovation and training activities of mutual interest and where appropriate, the joint funding of planned collaborative efforts.
Mvula said there are a lot of successful stories to tell, especially among the youth innovators.
“We have funded a lot of young people who have developed software applications into manufacturing and cosmetics using local ingredients. There is for example one we are really proud of. She used the seed money of N$500 000 we provided and won the Bank of Namibia innovator’s award last year. So there are a lot of success stories, it’s not just money being thrown away,” he noted.
Further, Mvula said, as part of the organisation’s ground rules and procedures, they continuously monitor the implementation of funded projects.
Recipients are expected to provide quarterly reports to NCRST on progress.
He said research funding has always not been given priority, but the status quo is changing.
“We started three years ago in terms of funding research in this country. It was not given a priority. Other things such as education have always been funded yet we see the pass rates and quality of output are not that good. But we are not saying let’s stop funding. So you also can’t say stop funding while you didn’t invest a lot of time and money sufficiently for you to really make a decision whether to stop or not,” he said.
Mvula also revealed that NCRST is busy developing a portal for researchers where they can register and put up their curricula vitae and publications to be accessed by the public.
Meanwhile, IUM acting vice chancellor Professor Kingo Mchombu expressed gratitude towards NCRST for having entered an agreement with the only privately owned university in Namibia.
NCRST has already partnered with academic institutions such as the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in terms of research, science and technology.
“Research is the lifeblood of academia because the whole purpose of academic institutions is to generate new knowledge that relate to problems facing the country. At IUM we are keen to advance the theme of innovation and entrepreneurship. We shall strengthen the research component of innovation and entrepreneurship. We are working really hard to ensure that when our students get out of IUM they have innovation and entrepreneurship skills,” he said.
IUM head of research Dr Rukee Tjingaete said the research division is a fast growing unit and is responsible for the stimulation of a research culture at the university.
He added that research at IUM is seen as an applied discipline that will systematically create new relevant knowledge in the context of the country’s strategies to enhance the government’s national development programmes that promote a knowledge-driven economy, as envisaged in Vision 2030, the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) and the Harambee Prosperity Plan.
According to the 2015-2019 strategic plan of IUM, the second decade of IUM is devoted to undertake scholarly research and publication of research output in reputed journals, which will help the university to compete and collaborate with other institutions and research centres, both locally and internationally.