Africa University through it’s recently established Office of Research and Innovation in collaboration with the AU Clinical Research Center (CRRC) held the Inaugural Research and Innovation Day under the theme, “Development through Innovative Research” on the 26th of March 2021 . The online event was attended by leading Africa University academics, graduate students and research partners in other universities and offered a platform for the presentation of prominent research being conducted in the respective colleges also providing an excellent learning experience for novices to gain insight from and access to leading researchers in various fields.
Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mageto opened the important event and stressed the need to create conducive and supportive structures that facilitate and reward curious and inquisitive minds. He also emphasized the important role of universities in not just generating knowledge but ensuring it bridges the gap between the worlds of academia and industry. He said,
“Universities of the future will be characterized by their research and innovations. These play a central role in the advancement of societies and economies. The production and dissemination of knowledge was the core foundation of the formation of universities and it is an area of growing excellence in many universities across Africa. Africa University is adopting a rigorous and creative approach to encouraging research and innovation on our campus. We are committed to providing our staff and students with capacities for excellence in research and innovation. We recognize that education is increasingly becoming digital and this has serious implications on our sustained relevance and ability to create an enriching experience for our student body , faculty and educational instruction.”
Prof. Mageto went on to speak to the new administrative infrastructure that has been instituted to advance the cause of innovation and research on the main campus as well as the strategic partnerships that the university leverages to assist budding researchers.
“Through research and innovation we are restructuring and reconfiguring our programme offerings and thinking outside the box to compete on the global stage. We are committed to inculcating the spirit of innovation, discovery and inquiry in this valley of dreams for life- long learning. Through creating the Office of Research and Innovation and the Directorate of Quality Assurance, we aim to attract strategic investment through effective linkages and create channels for inter- disciplinary collaborations and research of the best quality that is embedded in ethics and research best practices. Our Research Ethics Committee’s establishment provides a moral compass as we embark on this journey of discovery. Partnerships with the Research Council of Zimbabwe and the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, have created avenues for young researchers to soar.”
Guest of Honor and Key Note Speaker Professor E. Gomo , Director of Research Support Services in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Zimbabwe, delivered a key note address that challenged universities to reimagine their positions and contribution to the development agenda in Africa and for researchers to aspire to become positive change agents.
“This day is one of the many footprints that Africa University is imprinting as a center of research excellence. As a continent, Africa contributes less than 3% of global research output with Egypt, Nigeria , South Africa and Tunisia contributing the bulk of these publications. Zimbabwe has less than 1000 researchers engaged in research per million people hence it is of paramount importance that we invest in increasing this number to drive up our innovation output. Strong research innovation systems create development and universities are perfectly positioned to groom the next generation of innovators that we so urgently need. Globally, we see the part that universities have to play in driving innovation processes with Silicone Valley being the perfect example. We must rise above our challenges to ensure that knowledge generated in universities is disseminated in industry and to do this we need strong leadership that empowers researchers, mentors them, incentivizes them , provides funding and continuity. We need to also educate for innovation and not for employment. To achieve this, we must invest in the fundamentals of university infrastructure which means we must invest in good governance, human capital, facilities and equipment to conduct research. We must strengthen relationships with government, industry and society to create a virtuous cycle of positive development.”
The half day seminar featured presentations of ongoing research in the field of Malaria, HIV/AIDS, water rights and access to water, food production and agriculture, Intellectual Property and theological outreach during the COVID- 19 pandemic. The broad spectrum of topics is a reflection of the diverse research activities currently ongoing in the university’s colleges and their grounding in key topical and contextually relevant matters that affect Zimbabwe, the region and the continent.