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[ABUJA] Universities in Nigeria are relaunching a research fair  to boost industry take-up of academic output.

The revamped Nigerian Universities Research and Development Fair, championed by the National Universities Commission (NUC), aims to prevent research from stagnating on university 'shelves' or from being published only in obscure scientific journals.

Noel Saliu, the NUC's deputy director for research administration and monitoring, told SciDev.Net that the fair will ensure that research is matched to the needs of specific organisations, providing an avenue for collaboration between universities and industry.

Saliu told SciDev.Net that a series of meetings has been slated between university researchers and industry representatives to facilitate this.

He says that the fair has been transformed from just a display of research to a medium for helping to drive R&D output into the national economy. "In other parts of the world universities are the engine rooms that drive industry — Nigeria cannot be different."

"The fair will be an opportunity for industry to select research output from universities for development, production and marketing," he adds.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, president of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, which is backing the fair, notes that a substantial number of research projects are carried out in Nigerian universities, but few are developed to become commercial products.

"A lot of research on natural products goes on in our universities and institutes," he says. "But most of it ends up on researchers' shelves — having being used to earn career promotions."

Kayode Ayodele, regional coordinator for the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, told SciDev.Net that the initiative is commendable, but he is doubtful that universities will be able to meet the needs of industry.

"This is not the first time that such a laudable initiative has surfaced," he says. "But universities in the country have lacked the resources to undertake research that will attract industry. The economy has continued to suffer as a result."

Oluwole Familoni, a chemist the University of Lagos, agrees, saying that the past R&D fairs [held in 2004, 2005 and 2008 respectively] were not successful because university researchers lacked the financial resources to conduct high-quality research.