By Clet Wandui MASIGA
Conservation Biologist and Geneticist and Farm Entrepreneur
Uganda is among a group of six countries outperforming their economic peers in the recently released report on Global innovation index (GII) according to the report released on Friday 17th September 2015 in London, UK. Other countries that outperformed their peers include China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, and Kenya. The GII 2015 looks at “Effective Innovation Policies for Development” and shows new ways that emerging economy policymakers can use to boost innovation and spur growth by building on local strengths and ensuring the development of a sound national innovation environment.
Speaking at the release of the report, Francis Gurry the current Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization re-echoed the known fact that Innovation holds far-reaching promise for spurring economic growth in countries at all stages of development. He further indicated that each nation must find the right mix of policies to mobilize the innate innovative and creative potential in their economies.
According to the report the top five most innovative countries include Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States of America while China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers. In my own analysis there is one thing that is common among the top innovators. They have a tradition of attracting the best talented and innovative brains from around the world and provide them scholarships to study in their universities or work in their established scientific and industrial institutions. In addition they have a tradition in investing in science and research and accordingly they tend to produce more quality research.
The innovation quality is measured by university performance, the reach of scholarly articles and the international dimension of patent applications which is facilitated by the fact that the top countries happen to host the world top class universities.
The Uganda government needs to continue its commitment to making Uganda the best place to innovate, patent new ideas and start and grow a business. This can be achieved by focusing on human capital development and research and development funding. Human capital development can be enhanced by continuing to innovate in the education system and our university education.
In Uganda, Makerere university ranks top in innovation but these gains are likely to be stagnated when you get its influential scholars against innovations and discouraging partnerships for innovation. This has been the case for biotechnology innovations and genetic engineering in particular in the college of agriculture and environmental sciences.
Another institution that is on top of innovation is the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). The recently adopted plant variety protection act is enhancing the innovation process in breeding new varieties of crops. The act provides for promotion and development of new varieties of crops and their protection as a means of enhancing breeders’ innovations and rewards through granting of plant breeders’ rights and other related matters. However, we have a group of civil activist in courts challenging it. This group is closely linked to anti-innovation lecturers such as Gregory Olupot at Makerere University. Olupot is a lecturer of soil biophysics in the department of Agricultural Production at the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES). He is opposed to any technologies and innovations largely due to conspiracy theories. He promotes outdated traditional approaches of farming such as farmer saved seed systems and out fashioned agricultural practices to new problems. Government should find a way of ignoring such groups and move on with policies to support innovations.
Finally Uganda government should continue to support private-public partnerships for establishment of innovation institutions/universities and in investing in research. One best approach to do this is to allocate private institutions/companies land to research, training, development and promotion of innovations. We also need government to strengthen the copyright registration services to support innovations and rewards to innovators.