Auxilia Katongomara, Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S economy is not benefiting from research and innovation as local firms are reluctant to embrace technology solutions from higher learning institutions, an official said yesterday.
In a presentation during a business luncheon on the role of STEM in Industrialisation and Modernisation held in Bulawayo, National University of Science and Technology lecturer, Engineer William Goriwondo, encouraged industry to utilise project recommendations from universities.
Eng Goriwondo told delegates that learning institutions were facing a number of challenges among them lack of funding and infrastructure to aid innovations from students.
“We also face a challenge of interest for research and our thinking at the moment is that research is not key to industry. Industry is saying we are doing tried and tested things we cannot afford to have you coming through and trying things but from the academia point of view, we should actually conduct research and feedback,” said Eng Goriwondo.
“There is fear of the unknown. Some will be too busy to allow research or hiding behind confidentiality but it would be confidentiality of doing wrong things. Solutions are given but they are not taken up, commercialisation, validation and development. This is where we require industry to take part.”
Eng Goriwondo said Nust, for instance was facing a challenge of funding for projects as they operate with a budget of about $6 000 for 100 students, which has seen students doing computer simulation rather than the real hardware.
He said annually, Nust produces more than 2 000 projects but they fail to get funding to commercialise them hence they end up in the institution’s repository.
Addressing the same gathering Zimdef chief executive officer, Mr Fredrick Mandizvidza, challenged universities to prepare for the new era in emerging technologies.
He said there should be a symbiotic relationship between industry and universities to align themselves to deliver to the needs and interests of the nation.
“There is a human capital industry gap that exists between universities and industry where industry is simply saying the kind of people produced in our universities are not the right people and the time has come for us to transform our universities,” he said.
“That could only be achieved through the production of high end skills in universities. It’s not feasible for our industries to remain stuck in obsolete technologies while universities move forward because in the same vein you are complaining now, you we will have graduates who are irrelevant to your setup because the skills they will be having will not be relevant to your setup.”
Mr Mandizvidza called on technocrats to come up with innovations and research projects that are based on the national interest. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development is spearheading the STEM initiative in high schools and the industrialisation and modernisation thrust through the country’s tertiary institutions.
Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo has said through the industrialisation and modernisation thrust, universities must now focus on producing high end skills that respond to the national interests.
Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa is among those that attended the meeting.