The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, has advocated for increased and sustained synergy between Nigerian universities and the oil and gas industry to harness the noticeable gains in the implementation of the Nigerian Content agenda in the Petroleum Sector.
Delivering the 23rd, 24th & 25th combined Convocation Lecture of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ABTU) in Bauchi over the weekend, the NNPC GMD noted that the Ivory Tower and the Industry must seek workable and symbiotic partnership for the good of the institution and the growth of the Industry.
Dr. Baru said before getting to that point the stakeholders must provide answers to some riddles which include: What makes collaboration between university and industry work? Why do many partnerships fail to yield the desired result? And how have some companies and their academic partners successfully overcome their inherent differences to forge a higher level of strategic partnership?
He said some studies conducted on European Universities-Business Cooperation undertaken by a French group posited that it requires strong university leadership, and a faculty that understands business, to emplace incentives and structures for academics to bridge that gap, overcome the cultural divide and make collaboration work.
According to the GMD the experts further argued the European universities could significantly increase their attractiveness to industry by making industry partnerships a clear priority and by attracting and developing a pool of academics who have worked in industry before.
Driving the point home, the NNPC GMD said the interplay of the role of the university, which includes undertaking scientific research, incubation of technology and breeding of high skilled manpower with that of industry’s promotion of innovation, are both necessary to enhancing the Nigerian Content policy in the oil and gas industry.
He posited that executives and academics managing partnerships must agree on the core elements needed to make a partnership work, noting that leadership, vision and determination are the most essential ingredients in this regard.
Dr. Baru explained that to trigger substantial impact, university leadership needs to consider making collaboration with industry a top priority and communicate the message regularly to the entire academic community and to captains of industry whenever the opportunities arise.
“They should headhunt and attract retired industry experts into their fold and get them to teach, research, co-mingle and rub minds thereby achieving what the European researchers advocated as a way to getting maximum university-Industry collaborations, ’’ he said.
Dr. Baru further said though the Nigerian Content practice had become fully institutionalized as a National Development imperative which redefined and opened up new frontiers for national economic growth and social stability in the Oil & Gas Industry, there is still a yearning gap to close in respect of instituting sustainable development innovation.
“Strategic partnerships need input at the highest level from both the company and the university. A joint steering team with senior academics and company executives with built-in flexibility is required to sustain long-term strategic partnerships that work best,’’ he said.
He also noted that the first step to a healthy partnership is assessing the core academic strengths of the university and the core research opportunities of the company to identify prospects for collaboration based on shared vision among other measures.
‘’I will recommend that ATBU leadership sets up a university-Industry consultative forum with advisory board from selected industry sectors where they are well positioned to develop partnerships and seek endorsement of institutions across the nation to kick start a sustained dialogue as the first step,’’ Dr. Baru said.
He called on the graduating students to embrace entrepreneurship, noting that the future belongs to innovators who do not need going through the labour market to survive.
Commending the NNPC GMD for his incisive thoughts and presentation, ATBU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Saminu Abdurrahman Ibrahim said the institution was ready to pick up the gauntlet and forge a workable university-industry relationship with the NNPC, especially in the areas of ongoing oil exploration in the in-land sedimentary basin.
Prof. Ibrahim noted that the proximity of ATBU to the Chad and Gongola basins offered it immense advantage over other institutions in this regard.