No doubt Nigerian youths are among the most inventive and innovative on the planet. However, many of these ideas are wasting away daily even in the face of the need for innovations to transform the Nigerian economy. Project Scinovate is a project broken into stages, which includes a reality show, to bridge this gap by harvesting scientific invention, innovations and developing them to transform the economy. In this interview, Chief Executive Officer of the project, Rotimi Emmanuel spoke with DAYO EMMANUEL on how the project was conceptualized, and how it will run to solve the present problems Nigeria is facing. Excerpts:
Can you give a background of Project Scinovate and what problem you intend to solve with it?
If we look at the Nigerian economy, you’ll discover that none of the sectors is productive in terms of providing locally it factor inputs of production. None can guarantee it’s technologically input locally for its own sustainability. Majority of our factors inputs are imported, we are simply import based. Even with the mineral resources we have, all we do is mine them, ship them abroad, we get peanuts and spend more to import the refined products. There is no way we can get industrialized this way and no economy grows without being industrialized and no industrialization will come without meaningful locally sourced scientific technological input. It is straight forward, but we have been shying away from this. If we don’t develop our economy with our local scientific or technological inventions, we won’t develop our economy especially as the Naira/forex debacle will always have negative results on our economy. This cannot be contested, we simply can’t achieve the level of economic development we dream of without developing our local scientific base in Nigeria and in Africa. Therefore it is important we pay strong attention and commit massive investment to facilitating and adoption of our own technology to improve our labour productivity and ultimately improve our economic capability as a nation. Let us make no mistake, Nigeria has the population of about 200 million, we are blessed with people with powerful ideas, inventions that can drive our economic breakthrough locally but we see them on a daily basis how they suffer neglect. From our survey, we discovered that the two major problems that these people face are lack of proper publicity engagement platforms and structured finance for the development of their ideas. By proper publicity engagement platform, we mean not just noise making but a constructive one that connects them to the eyes and minds of every one as they get to showcase their ideas. Also on the finance part, for us it goes beyond sourcing for funds but going through a structured Research and Development methodology as it is done globally and these are the major reasons for which Project Scinovate was conceptualized. We will give aspiring inventors and innovators in the science, tech spaces a life-time opportunity to engage their dreams and invent the future. Contestants with home-grown ideas, which are original, that will address our challenges as a people and will present our own tomorrow solution to our everyday problem, stand the chance to win the grand prizes as well as research and development contracts to bring those ideas to life for commercialization. Project Scinovate is in two parts. Part A is the reality tv show and that is the publicity engaging platform that we talked about, part B is the development stage, that is the structured finance research and Development part. Now moving to talking about the mechanics, we would organize a Pan-Nigerian contest for people with science and tech ideas in a reality tv show format. We are partnering with existing research and innovation centres in Nigerian tertiary institution to serve as the incubation hub where these winner ideas will be extensively researched and developed to have a final product of global standard. And with this, we would be providing alternative educative, inspiring and yet entertaining tv contents for Nigerians as against the already existing lewd ones that offer negative moral influence with zero economic impact.
A lot of us agree that technology is what drives development in modern society, luckily, Nigerian population is quite youthful. How can your project be best positioned to harvest the tech savvy youths to help the country?
Our positioning strategy is holistic and robust, starting with the publicity engagement format that we decided to use, that is the tv reality show. This guarantees ardent followership. To the structured research and development arrangement we have with our development partners. Then the stage three is the subsequent funding of winners ideas for commercialization. Basically once you apply and register to become a contestant, your idea is guaranteed that it gets to see the light of the day. Project Scinovate is positioned to guarantee a yearly harvest of people. mostly youths, with revolutionary technological ideas to drive the development of our Nation,.
How did the idea come to you?
The drive to finding a way to fast-track the Nigerian economic development and turn her into a modern day solution haven in the not too distant future actually birthed this. The second reason is the noble intent of utilizing locally sourced materials to power locally developed ideas. We understand that this second reason will actually find a way to sustain it. If you have a project running on locally sourced raw materials and all your ideas are locally developed, it stands sustainable over a long period of time. These are what gave birth to the project.
What do you want to achieve with this project?
Simply, Influence! We want to be the major force behind the next generation of people, solution providers driving Nigeria’s development. That is what is in it for us. We know it is capital intensive; however, the model we are adopting is that the project is broken down into phases such that there are different partnership requirements for each phase. For instance, there are opportunities for outright sponsorship for the reality show phase. There is also the aspect of development partnership for the research and the development phase. There is also a part for government intervention and investment to commercialize the ideas. So it is capital intensive but the kind of model we are adopting ensures that we are not looking at a partnership that covers everything. This way, we are bringing in more players so that each phase can run itself.
What do you expect after this reality show?
We expect at least two or three future inventions, innovations. We have talked about what the project stands for and what we stand to gain so the expectation is that, for each season we want two or three inventions, the innovations that will solve our everyday problems in any of the 10 focal points. This is the expectation.
What do the winners stand to gain as well?
Everybody is a winner, once you come on the reality show, indirectly you are a winner. However, it is being structured that the first five of the standing ten are guaranteed a sum of money. For positions six to ten, we ensure we don’t leave them hanging; we connect them to people who can invest in their ideas. First prize is N2.5m, the second prize is N1.5m and the third prize is N1m. However, this is not the ultimate for us, that is just to put icing on the cake for the reality tv show. The ultimate is to take the last five people to the second phase which is the research and development phase whereby they access facilities provided by our development partners. They would go to the partners to do product research and development and at the end of the day; they are able to have a standard product prototype before they move to the stage of commercialization. So we can say on the surface they can get prize money but that is not the ultimate. For us, the ultimate is moving into the research and development part where they would be able to commercialize their ideas. Our ideas, Inventions and Innovations focal points of interest are:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Aviation / Aeronautics
- Bio Medical Sciences (BMS)
- Real Estate