Government says the establishment of the Ghana Innovation and Research Commercialisation Center (GIRC Center) will hasten the country’s socio-economic development through the application of science technology and innovation.

The Environment Ministry said the Centre will harmonise and facilitate processes that ensure investment in research is linked directly with national priorities.

“It is to be the coordinating agency ensuring that all the research is based on national priorities and are coordinated with no duplication with outputs properly disseminated.

“It will also ensure that partnership is formed with the private sector so that research is transformed into real products,” the advisor to the Environment Minister said during an interview.

“We are now laying the foundation and have created the Center at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, (CSIR) and are expecting the implementation team to do what is supposed to be done,” he added.

He explained the GIRC – Center will be linked to National Research Fund into which at least 1% of GDP will be channeled.

“GIRC – Center will be driving the call for proposals and when a recommendation is made that an initiative deserves funding it will be promptly allocated. These things are happening in parallel,” he explained.

A bill to back the fund – the Ghana National Research Fund Bill 2019 – which spells out sources of revenue and the modalities through which scientists can access it has been drafted and sent to parliament for approval.

President Nana Akufo-Addo is hoping to increase the funding to 2.5% of GDP in future.

“I have pledged that a minimum 1% of Ghana’s GDP will be applied towards Research and Development (R&D) in the short to medium term, to be increased to 2.5% in the long term.

“I am determined that this pledge be met,” the President said when announcing the establishment of the National Research and Innovation Fund.

Funding for the basic research that led to the setting up of the Center was provided by the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI), a multi – funder initiative aimed at strengthening the research capacities of 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The model for the establishment of the National Research Fund was also based on that of South Africa which is one of the SGCI funding countries. 

With more money and a prioritization of possible areas of investment through the GIRC – Center, Ghana is expected to see increased benefits from investments in science and technology unlike what had been seen in previous years.

“We have relegated science and technology to the background over the years. Ghana has really not leveraged on it. For the last three years, the focus has been to strengthen STI systems in the country with far reaching policies that will put STI at the center of national development,” Mr. Boachie said about the establishment of the GRIC Center.

In Ghana, many government scientists only get paid their salaries at the end of the month without getting funding for their research work.

The few who are able to raise external funding to undertake the research also struggle to commercialise the outcome and so such research documents only end up on the shelves.

Mr Boachie says this will change with the setting up of GIRC–Center and the National Research Fund so that STI can become the driver of national development. 

“We believe STI should be the fulcrum around which socio-economic development revolves. And we need to try to emulate the examples of countries like Korea, Israel and Singapore that have put STI at the center of development and formed partnership between government, academia and the private sector to drive technology and innovation,” he said about the motivation behind the setting up of the center and the fund.

The GIRC – Center is expected to prioritize eight identified Strategic Technology Areas (STAs) where Ghana has competitive advantage to help advance national development.

“Ghana is not a very rich country. We do not have infinite amount of resources. We cannot focus on everything.  We need to focus on where we have competitive advantage and most challenges,” he explained.

Agriculture and agro-processing have been identified as one of the eight strategic technology areas receiving special attention.

“How do we apply STI to increase agricultural productivity? And once we have produced, how do we add value to it so it can be processed and made available to the people?” Mr. Boachie asked.

The other strategic areas are:

  • Applying STI to protect the environment and forests
  • Investment in local manufacturing
  • Boosting ICT application (including artificial intelligence, robotics and internetin all aspects of life
  • Increased investment in renewable energy
  •  Use of local technology in mining and minerals processing for the benefit of Ghanaians
  • Increased investment in local oil and gas exploration and processing technologies
  • Health and pharmaceuticals are the other strategic technology areas.

“COVID-19 has taught us that if you don’t develop your health systems and apply STI, you will always be left behind. And when a pandemic starts, you will always be handicapped. We are looking at health and pharmaceuticals to develop drugs and therapeutic systems to support our health infrastructure locally, Mr Boachie explained.

Strategic Technology Centers linked to the GIRC–Center will be established across the country to provide support to actors in the eight STAs mentioned above.

The model of the Strategic Technology Centers is a replica of the technology stations concept currently in South Africa, one of the countries funding the SGCI.