INNOVATORS in the country need to conduct researches that make sense of the vast knowledge if the nation is to meet its goals in science and technology.
Associate Dean for Research and Knowledge transfer of the UK University of Exeter, Prof John Bessant said this at a public lecture organised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the National Social Security Sound that over 500 billion US dollars is spent annually in the creation of new knowledge.
"History has proved that invention isn't enough and that innovation is key to everything. Take William Spengler who in 1907 invented portable electric vacuum cleaner but is hardly heard of because someone came along, innovated and has established a name," he said.
Prof Bessant said that unlike what many people believed, innovation didn't really need high technology and that everyone has the potential to innovate but the biggest challenge to any nation was tapping that potential. He said that the vast knowledge that was being generated was in a form of spaghetti and that innovators needed to weave together knowledge to create value from it.
Prof Bessant together with the University of Sussex professor of technology and innovation management, Joe Tidd has been in the country for a week to train 12 Tanzanians on how to strengthen the management and practice of innovation and entrepreneurship.
"Social media is proving to be a huge resource for innovation. After China and India as the countries with the most people, Facebook comes next and if well managed results can be achieved," he said. The professor said that innovation wasn't magic and that though education was a prerequisite, knowing what you wanted to innovate was vital.
He cited the example of Dr Govindappa Venkatswamy, an eye specialist in India who sought and managed to reduce the costs of cataract operation from 300 US dollars to 30 US dollars with an innovative method of surgeries.
He lauded the money transfer system using mobile phones saying that there was every possibility of developed nations coming to tap the technology. Prof Joe Tidd said that the vast knowledge that was being generated may appear to be chaotic on the setup stressing that common goals and directives were needed.
The Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, said that focus on innovation had become very important to the government and all was being done to encourage it. Prof Mbarawa said that what the government hoped to achieve was near impossible as long as tertiary institutions like universities, the government and the private sector did not work together.
"The government in 2010 provided 19bn/- to the promotion of science, technology and innovation but I have to say it is saddening that the private sector didn't contribute a dime to that," he said. An official from UNESCO said that the UN body had been supporting the country since 2007 and that President Jakaya Kikwete has specifically requested them to support science, technology and innovation.
The official said that it was out of this request that brought about the training of the 12 Tanzanians and it was the hope of the organizers that a spill over effect would occur when the trained become trainers.