Stakeholders from across the foods and beverage sector in both public and private sectors, including Coca-Cola Nigeria have agreed on the need for increased level of collaborations on Research and Development for sustainable economic development of the Nation.
Speaking during the panel discussion session sponsored by Coca-Cola Nigeria at the 42nd annual conference organised by Nigerian Institute of Food, Science and Technology (NIFST) held in Abeokuta recently, stakeholders agreed that there was the need for relevant agencies of government, the academia as well as industries in the food and beverage sector to work together by investing heavily on research to pave way for economic growth in Nigeria.
The guest speaker, Professor Babatunde Oguntona, a food and nutrition consultant who spoke on the topic titled ‘Research Collaboration and Industry Linkages: A Sustained Partnership’ averred that there was little or no chance for innovation except industry stakeholders collaborate noting that doing so was capable of enhancing Nigeria’s global market competitiveness providing we harness the benefit of collaborations.
Oguntona, while commending some big industries most especially Coca-Cola Nigeria for its level of commitment to research tasked other corporate organisations, universities as well as relevant government agencies to place much premium on research and development to enable Nigeria fulfil its potential economically.
He reckoned that Nigeria was falling behind owing to the lip service being paid to research as current global statistics on investment in that regard had shown that countries with highest level of commitment enjoy commensurate development economically.
The Director, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Coca-Cola Nigeria, Fred Chiazor, opined that the industry as a whole was willing and ready to go into partnership with other industry stakeholders in research with a view to engender economic development for the country.
He said” Coca-Cola Nigeria believes in the power of partnership for sustainable economic growth of the food value chain in Nigeria. This linkage amongst University, Regulatory Industry remains critical for stimulating sustainable economic growth through the evolution of food value chain and innovation.
“The collaboration amongst these cardinal sectors promotes shared insights on global best practices and standards which ultimately drives inclusive growth across the spectrum of food value chain.
“Industry is willing to commit more to the growth of research in Nigeria and its outcome, where this linkage is established and within an enabling regulatory environment”.
Similarly, a senior lecturer and food consultant, Professor Ogugua Aworh equally canvassed the need for improved spending on research to bring about increased productivity noting that funding for the purpose of research should not be driven by outcome alone but also by the knowledge generated in the course of research.
While expressing concern on the declining fortunes of research in Nigeria, Aworh explained that all hands must be on deck by all the stakeholders to reverse the trend if Nigeria was determined and committed to becoming a part of the comity of productive nations that are not only respected in name but doing greatly economic wise.
He stated that such collaboration should not be limited to funding alone but contributions in the area of knowledge transfer and input particularly from industries to academia.
He said: “Without research, there cannot be generation of new knowledge, without new knowledge, there cannot be what to teach. Of course, I can say that research is going on everywhere but the society is not impacted because government is not providing the necessary funding.
“I think with industry; we can build trust but we must demonstrate that we have capacity to deliver. I must say that we must not give up on the industries and government. I believe the industries are willing provided universities are ready to be active partners”
On his part, Director of Food Safety and Nutrition, NAFDAC, Mr. Sheriff Olagunju urged other stakeholders in the sector to always bear in mind the regulatory requirements before embarking on any research as this would go a long way to facilitate quick outcomes and better relationship between the agency and the parties involved.