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UWI principal calls for more research investment
Principal of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus Professor Clement Sankat says the private sector must commit to investing in research if T&T’s true potential for sustained growth and competitiveness is to be realised over the long-term. Sankat said it was not enough for taxpayers, through government research schemes, to foot the bill in the quest for breakthroughs in innovation when the private sector could play a greater role. He noted that public investment in research and development in T&T is just 0.05 per cent of GDP compared to Israel which stood at 4.2 per cent and Japan at 3.3 per cent.
In his address at the UWI-National Gas Company (NGC) Research Awards Ceremony at te UWI’s Learning Resource Centre in St Augustine, Sankat said out of 48 projects approved under Government’s research scheme for the period 2006-2008, with disbursements of approximately $9.4 million, two patents were produced and a few application are still in progress. He added that 136 peer reviewed journals and articles, seven books, 12 chapters and 50 other scholarly outputs were produced. “Eleven Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) and PhD theses were completed; an additional $1.6 million in external funding was attracted and more than 48 new partnerships were established. The projects produced an average of 8.5 papers per US$100,000 of Government grant funds spent, or the equivalent of spending US$11,793.31 per paper. “When compared with researchers in more developed countries, our analysis showed that internationally researchers were spending between US$20,000 and US$166,000 per paper, while the UWI St Augustine researchers who received these Government grants spent US$11,793.31 per paper. Could you imagine if we had more funding to build especially our human capacity here, as this is a pre-requisite for success in research?”
Sankat said the private sector must change its attitude to innovation and imagination, which would in turn aid in cultivating a culture for funding research initiatives that would ensure this country’s prominence on the world stage. “We have been trying to provide our researchers with dedicated funding for projects in areas linked to national and regional development, re-shaping the contribution we once received from the Government of T&T’s Research Scheme into a more targeted Research and Development Impact Fund, an initiative that has been very well received and supported by my academic colleagues across all faculties,” he said. “I have been trying to do this in our country long before. But as any university president will tell you, this is no easy task. Achieving this goes beyond ensuring that each academic staff member is actively engaged in research. This Research Awards Ceremony is, therefore, just one of the many initiatives, projects and partnerships that we have been engaged in to strengthen our research enterprise and enhance the overall competitiveness of our campus and university.”
In addition to increasing recognition and awareness of our research, Sankat said, UWI had been steadily increasing researcher engagement through meetings and workshops with professors, active researchers and postgraduate forums for students. He said across the university’s seven faculties, research units, centres and institutes, there is a bee hive of research activity and projectsby staff and undergraduate and post-graduate students, developmental engineers and developmental scientists in collaboration with numerous institutions locally and abroad. These, he said, were all done with support from a range companies, organisation, embassies and foundations. “So we have been expanding and strengthening our partnerships in the area of research and this campus has been the beneficiary of very significant international research grants,” Sankat said.