NEF GG2018: Driving an innovation-led and inclusive growth agenda for Africa
- Youssef Travaly
- NEF GG2018
- (2) Comments
Dr. Youssef Travaly, Vice-President of Science, Innovation and Partnerships, Next Einstein Forum
We are less than sixty-five days from one of the most transformative scientific gatherings. More than just a scientific event, the second Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Global Gathering wants to spark new ideas, raise awareness on the possible impact of current and emerging technologies, stimulate Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) actors with a focus on implementation, strengthen the link between knowledge and knowhow and further build a strong African Community of Scientists.
The NEF hopes that showcasing innovative solutions, sometimes years ahead of industrial needs, relevant actors can make sure the necessary “brainpower” is ready to translate basic science into impactful results.
Innovation is key to Africa nations’ transformation into knowledge led economies. It is critical for long-term business success, which in turn leads to economic growth and job creation. At NEF, we believe innovation should drive economic growth through the production and dissemination of knowledge.
Public institutions play a pivotal role in realizing this through implementing structural changes that would increase investment in R&D and required skills at state level, promoting inclusion of the private sector at an early state and updating policies to cater to current and fast-changing technology trends.
Developing a Pan-African framework for innovation as an instrument to realizing economic and social transformation throughout the continent requires: (1) The development and expansion of the pipeline to knowledge creation, (2) The strengthening of knowledge creation and, (3) Fostering knowledge valorization in a number of strategic sectors. These are some the high-level objectives of this NEF Global Gathering 2018.
Increasing the pipeline to knowledge creation is a multi-faceted problem, which requires that we change the way we learn (and teach). It also requires that we close the gender gap and expand people’s horizons to better understand the value of engaging in STEM studies.
Knowledge creation is a little more obvious. It is about empowering scientists to do research. The generation of ideas through basic and applied research is fundamental to any knowledge economy.
Finally, knowledge valorization requires a more complex, often tiered approach. Making an idea or an invention into a product with market value and possible industry creation or disruption requires more than just scientists. It speaks to the policy and regulatory environment. It speaks to how the government works with the private sector. It speaks to conquering the ‘Valley of Death’.
The ‘Valley of Death’ or ‘Valley of Hope’ is the point from which many new ideas going through the innovation process fail or succeed in progressing to the market level. Innovative concepts can either be turned into a working prototype or fail to progress. Factors that contribute to failure include lack of raw materials, inability to articulate the potential benefits, poor technical skills, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of funding among others.
Many countries in Africa are failing to pass the ‘Valley of Death’ to bring impactful innovations to scale and market. This Global Gathering (GG2018) hopes to address these challenges and strengthen the innovation landscape on the continent by:
- Increasing the consideration of innovation in policy making
- Fostering inter-country collaborations through Pan-African research consortium & collaborations
- Better alignment between R&D and industrial needs, thereby strengthening funding mechanisms towards industrialization
Six global industries including life science, aerospace & defense systems, advanced materials & chemicals, ICT, automotive & transport systems, energy systems are expected to lead the socio-economic transformation of not only Africa but the entire world.
These industries have a strong focus on industrial R&D including return-on-investment, time-to-market, paybacks, competitive advantages, reliability, patents, lifecycles and products consideration. With no surprise, if the continent is to have more knowledge-led economies, and position itself as a strong contender in the battle for the fourth industrial revolution, it must strategically focus on key technologies in relation with the above industries. This includes: artificial intelligence, big data, bioengineering, information technology, medical diagnostics, precision medicine, renewable energy, virtualization, software and sustainability to name few of them.
The NEF’s GG2018 agenda hopes to weave these realities into discussions and move from discussion to measurable benchmarks.
We hope you will join us in March, in person or online.