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[ABIDJAN] Senegal is planning to put innovation at the heart of its science and technology policy in a bid to translate research into practical results.

Forty researchers, directors of research institutes, teachers and consultants participated in the first of a series of workshops earlier this year (19–21 October) that will draft a new policy over the coming months.

"Until recently [we had been prioritising] higher education and research," Georges de Noni, Senegal representative at the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), told AllAfrica. "Today the third [topic] is innovation."

De Noni said the policy will help ensure that, instead of lying dormant in laboratories, research is translated into practical results to meet development issues.

In addition to highlighting the importance of innovation for boosting the country's socioeconomic status, participants at the workshop also called for improved collaboration among universities and research institutes and the creation of a databank.

They also want the policy to identify suitable mechanisms for raising awareness of research results — and enabling people to take advantage of them.

Nouhou Diaby, technical advisor for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said at the workshop: "There is a need to have a national policy with a clear vision; that is, to [clearly] know what the state wishes in terms of scientific and technological research, and innovation".

Participants hope that the draft document will be ready early in 2012, after which it will be presented to the council of ministers before, if approved, going to parliament to be passed.

In the meantime, until the policy is in place, the government has decided to increase its research fund to 31 billion CFA francs (US$61 million) in 2012, up from this year's $US44 million.

Folarin Osotimehin, a science policy consultant to UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), said: "Researchers must define research programmes that put the emphasis on innovation".

Oumar Sock, a researcher at the University of Dakar's Polytechnic School, said: "Previously there was no national policy geared to research in Senegal where state priorities were clearly defined.

"Scientific research in Senegal is divided among various ministries as far as supervision is concerned. We have ministries for higher education and scientific research, agriculture, industry [and so on]." Another aim of the policy will be to unify these ministries, he said.