Permanent Secretary Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
BRIEF ON THE MINISTRY OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) was established in June 2016 and started its operations on a low key note from its inception. The Ministry became operational in January 2017 not withstanding its start-up challenges including lack of key personnel for establishment of a solid foundation of kick starting the Ministry.
The Ministry’s mandate is to provide policy guidance and coordination on matters of scientific research, development and the entire national innovation systems in the country.
The Ministry’s vision is a scientifically proficient and technologically advanced innovative society.
To date with the able political leadership and guidance of Dr. EliodaTumwesigye the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Ministry has registered the following achievements:-
(i). Development, approval and operationalization of the Ministry structure;
(ii). Creation of a Sector for STI which consists the mainstream Ministry and two affiliated institutions namely Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI). The Ministry has a vote (023); UIRI Vote 110 and UNCST as a subvention under the Ministry;
(iii). Creation of the Sector Working Group for Science, Technology and Innovation, the membership of which shall be agreed upon;
(iv). Preparation and submission of a Cabinet Memorandum on Amendment of the Acts for Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) to bring them under the political leadership of the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation;
(v). Development of a Master Plan for the Central region, Science and Technology Park;
(vi). Preparation and submission of the Science, Technology and Innovation Budget Framework Paper to Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development;
(vii). Preparation and submission to Parliament the first Ministerial Policy Statement of Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation for FY 2017/2018;
(viii). Participation in budget process for FY 2017/2018; and
(ix). Study tour to Malaysia for promotion of International networking in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).
The centrality of Science, Technology and Innovation in the National Development agenda is clearly outlined in the 2nd National Development Plan (NDP II), 2015/16 – 2019/2020 where the Science, Technology and Innovation Sub-Sector is mandated to ensure development, promotion, application and integration of Science and Technology in the National Development process. The objectives and interventions under Science, Technology and Innovation as clearly outlined in the NDP II are as follows:-
(i). Enhance the integration of Science and Technology into the national development process;
(ii). Increase transfer and adoption of technology;
(iii). Enhance Research and Development (R&D) in Uganda; and
(iv). Improve the Science, Technology and Innovation Legal and Regulatory Framework.
I would like at this point to note that the world has become much globalized and highly competitive and it’s evident that future development of any nation including Uganda has to be driven by creativity and Innovation. Business as usual is therefore NOT an option. As a country, we therefore have no choice but to position ourselves in a manner
that ensures that the country prioritizes its innovation agenda and its operationalization. In doing this, it’s inevitable that we need to make self-assessment and ask ourselves why Uganda seems to be among countries that are struggling to catch up with current elite countries in Science and Technology including USA, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Korea, Israel and others. Of course worldwide there are national disparities in the innovation rates and Uganda needs to sort out its innovation agenda.
We may also need to ask questions and provide answers as to why the Science and Technology intervention in the country over the years may not have yielded the results desired and try to assess whether our domestic policies and national institutions are at the center of the laxity; whether research funds/grants should be Government give away or should be recouped out of the sales profits earned by the grantees to be ploughed back into new R & D projects.
Furthermore, as a country we need to make a critical assessment of Uganda’s black box of innovation with critical assessment of the input side parameters such as:- Research & Development (R&D)expenditures, the number and capacity of Scientists and Engineers, laboratory and equipment’s, universities and Public Research Institutions as well as paying the same attention to the output side,i.e scholarly publications, patent rates, profits, economic growth, productivity and new products, all being manipulated by internal processes that include technological innovation and scientific progress. The pillars of innovation as identified from available literature in the Science, Technology and Innovation literature include intellectual property rights, research subsidies collection, research universities and trade policy.
From the time Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI) became operational as a Ministry in the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector, it has become more evident that a country tackling its innovation challenge need not necessarily adopt the institutions of past success stories such as the US, Germany, Israel, Japan, Taiwan,Malaysia etc. Each country has the right to design its Science, Technology and Innovation institutions and policies to fit its own history, policies and culture.
The tasks that lie ahead in the Science, Technology and Innovation business may appear daunting but are in no way insurmountable. I am drawing my confidence from the statement from our renowned African leader Nelson Mandela who said, “It always seems impossible until it is done”. The journey for taking Uganda’s Science, Technology and Innovation agenda under the whole of Government approach has started with the functioning of MoSTI and we are confident of getting the job done.
With clearly and well thought out institutions, policies and networks, Uganda has in the foreseable future the potential and capability of becoming a leader in several Science and Technology Sector in the region and Africa and able to compete globally in such areas as:-
Advanced Defense Systems
But institutions and policies by themselves do not guarantee easy success – there will be need to deal with market failures as well.
There is room for everybody and all actors – public and private to be active in the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector. This calls for “moving together and in the same direction,” under a whole government approach hence the need for strong coordination and avoiding duplication and overlaps. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is well positioned to champion this moving together and coordination agenda.
Our focus and priorities in the FY 2017/2018 shall be in the following areas among others as reflected in our Ministerial Policy Statement:-
(i). Amendment of the Uganda National Council and Science and Technology Act and Uganda Industrial Research Institute Act to bring the two institutions under the political leadership of the Minster responsible for Science.
(ii). Securing office accommodation for the Ministry so as to be able to accommodate the entire staff of the Ministry as per the approved structure of the Ministry.
(iii). Recruitment of the technical staff of the Ministry as per the approved structure and establishment of the Ministry.
(iv). Review of the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation in line with the NDP II priorities.
(v). Review and rationalize the National Innovation funding mechanism and modalities in line with acceptable best practices.
(vi). Operationalise the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector Working Group.
(vii). Prepare the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector Strategic Investment Plan.
(viii). Conduct the sector’s first annual review meeting.
(ix). Initiate and promote National and International networks for Science, Technology and Innovation.
As a Ministry, it is our resolve to nature and cultivate a strong Public/Private Sector collaboration in innovation. We are conscious of the fact that public Sector support is crucial in innovation and can make or break the drive to Innovation. We shall strive to ensure that Government Agencies and departmentsembrace innovation so as to back up the Private Sector. It’s evident that advanced countries in STI have a robust Public Sector that facilitates the Private Sector to innovate.It is my appeal to all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to be actively involved when we review and come up with the country’s revised STI Policy to be followed by developing the Sector Strategic Investment Plan all aimed at placing the country on the right course in ensuring that innovation is embraced byall and subsequently becomes away of life for Uganda.
The MoSTI shall strive to ensure that nobody is left in the STI drove since STI is not a preserve of MoSTI but cuts across all sectors – both public and private. MoSTI is well positioned to provide the required support and provision of STI in Uganda and shall coordinate all actors in the STI arena. We are open to ideas and suggestions on how to get the country on the right path in ensuring that STI becomes the cornerstone of Uganda’s National Development Agenda for the prosperity of the country, building on the existing success stories by our scientists and non-scientists innovators.
The transformation drive under innovation has solid backing from the highest political level in the country championed by H.E the President and Cabinet. What the country needs is right policies on innovation embraced by all sectors, right leadership and a transformed mindset premised on no business as usual principle. MoSTI is well positioned to champion this course and we appeal to the entire population of the country to come on board and we move together and in the same direction.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY
David O.O Obong