EU pledges €440,000 support for global research project

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By Ngozi Nwankwo

European Union has committed to provide 440,000 euro to support shortlisted research teams in the country under the Horizon Europe Project.

Mr Tope Toogun, who Heads Tertiary Education Trust Fund,TETFund, TETFund’s team on Horizon Europe programme, made this known on Thursday while briefing the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc. Sunny Echono, on ongoing efforts to ensure Nigerian researchers’ participation in the global renowned research project.

Toogun said despite the rich human resources in the country, researchers in Nigeria had before now taken the back seat in accessing grants the EU Horizon project.

He said that the situation is now changing for the better following TETFund’s engagement with the EU and its decision to set up a team to address challenges preventing Nigerian researchers from participating in the project.

“It is embarrassing that Nigeria with all our intellectual capital, we cannot participate in Horizon. The EU works in terms of 7-year framework, the current one is Horizon Europe, the previous framework was called Horizon 2020 and it ran from 2013 to 2020.

“Africa got about 350 projects, out of which South Africa alone cornered 146, Egypt and Morocco got between 50 and 70, and Kenya got 46, Nigeria was not on the radar. It doesn’t mean we have not been participating, we have been on the sideline.” he said.

Toogun, who briefed the TETFund’s boss alongside another member of the team, Ayo Ajayi, identified the inability of Nigerian researchers to organise and prepare sufficiently for the Horizon project as one of the major impediments which prevented them from accessing the grants, hence, the decision of TETFund to set up the team in order to clear all the hurdles.

“We have shortlisted initial 60 research teams from about 400 of applications and the EU Commission has committed to the provision of a facility of 440, 000 euro in technical assistance to support the development of capacity in what we come up with in this programme that TETFund has initiated….

“The research teams we have identified, we are going to do an intensive physical training programmes for them in September and in that training, one of the key components will be on EU project management competency,” he said.

Speaking further, Toogun said his team has developed National Contact Point (NCP) network for Nigerian researchers and uploaded it the global portal, adding that it is a major requirement in accessing the grant.

” We have also deployed research management software, all the 400 research teams will be uploaded in this platform,”he added.

On his part, the TETFund’s Executive Secretary said the agency is fully committed to ensure Nigerian researchers are competitive in the International arena, adding that the Fund is also targeting other global research bodies to attract grants for scholars in the country.

Echono, who said research and innovation remain a major way to address all the challenges in the country, said TETFund would leave no stone unturned to champion schemes that will deepen research in the country.

On the initiative on Horizon Europe, the TETFund boss said the move is to bridge the existing gap, so that Nigerians can now participate actively across countries in the EU in the area of getting access to research grant.

“The move is to ensure that Nigerian researchers break this glass ceiling because it is very embarrassing when we read and see international publications that smaller African countries, countries like South African, like Egypt, Algeria and even Kenya tend to be participating more and getting more research grants from these development partners, particularly the EU…,” Echono said.

The TETFund boss said the newly developed NCP would be domesticated to ensure easy collaboration among Nigerian researchers, and to have up to date knowledge of various research works that are being undertaking by Nigerians.