The Vice Chancellor of Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Professor Otlogetswe Totolo says his institution is on economic makeover path.
The Palapye-based institution on Thursday handed over to the government’s COVID-19 relief fund 6 000 liquid and 2 000 bar soaps derived from research and development plus P1 million raised by the staff of the institution.
In an interview after presenting the donation, Prof Totolo said his institution is on a mission of roping in private sector businesses to commercialise the soaps immediately.
“The university values private sector collaboration for unlocking economic diversification. We will partner with the businesses so that they ramp up production of our research outputs in their industries so that we can get a return on investment to continue more Research and Development initiatives,” he buttressed.
A research and innovation stalwart, Prof Totolo is of the view that as institution of learning BIUST cannot be able to manufacture research solutions and market at the same time.
The collaboration with businesses, he said, will enable the companies to reproduce more so that they can also create jobs; adding that the idea is to support the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs).
“Our research and development solutions are intended to empower and support local traders. We must be relevant as a university to live to the expectation of economic diversification,” he said, adding that the tangible products by universities show that Botswana has potential too.
In addition, he insisted that the lessons learned from COVID-19 should be that more innovation solutions should be formulated so that there are always readily available for future situations.
Asked on the annual Science, Technology and Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) festival Totolo revealed that it will not be possible to host it as a result of COVID-19.
He said the university had intended to have another edition of the festival this year as social distancing rules need to be respected but he is optimistic more innovations will still be done.
Totolo reiterated BIUST’s commitment to transferring science and technology skills to the communities by engaging public and schools to give out free products for empowerment.
Vice president Slumber Tsogwane hailed BIUST and other local tertiary institutions that are pursuing science and technology based products that respond to COVID-19 contests.
Tsogwane said Botswana has joined the rest of the world to embrace a knowledge economy trajectory owing to the bankable innovative solutions that local institutions have forged so far.
Gobusamang Keebine, president of Business Botswana, said local institutions have been producing tangible research solutions but not fully commercialising them.
He said the institutions should really push for privatising their products as the private sector and tertiary institutions should utilise opportunities offered by COVID-19 to sell products.
“There are a lot of viable research products done by BIUST, UB and BITRI but they are untapped for commercialisation. The local private sector market is able to consume them and as Business Botswana we are ready to work with these institutions to facilitate markets for them,” he hinted.