Can you ‘Plug & Play’ entrepreneurial thinking into any situation?

I have been asking myself this question recently because I keep being presented with opportunities to design and deliver programmes in a wide range of settings with the common theme of stimulating an entrepreneurial mindset. That’s partly because I am part of the GCRF-funded RECIRCULATE project. You might be asking, what has “stimulating an entrepreneurial mindset” got to do with GCRF, which is the Global Challenges Research Fund. GCRF funds collaborative research that will contribute to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Do the researchers interested in the SDG’s need an “entrepreneurial mind-set”?   Or indeed any researchers?

The debate within the RECIRCULATE community suggests that these are more controversial questions than I had realised. So let me be clear from the outset, I don’t think entrepreneurial thinking can solve all the world’s problems! However, based purely on my own experience, yes, I know this is anecdotal, I have increasingly come to believe that entrepreneurial thinking can play a critical role in empowering people to take action to improve their situation.

That immediately leads to another question. What do I mean by “entrepreneurial thinking”? If you are from a business [or do I mean ‘business school’?] background the answer might be obvious. Beyond that, my experience is that researchers can fall into the trap of assuming entrepreneurial thinking is all about business for business people. But, in my experience, it’s absolutely not! In fact, if researchers delegate this way of thinking to business people they miss the opportunity to enhance their abilities. So if you are a researcher, entrepreneurial thinking can help you see what you do in a slightly different way. Those new insights can make a real difference when you are thinking about and writing research bids from a range of different funders. Above all, a more entrepreneurial mind-set can transform how your research actually “makes a difference” beyond a specific academic area. Why delegate something so important?

With that definition of “entrepreneurial thinking” we can come back to that initial question. Is there a standard approach to stimulating that mindset that works for different audiences?  Three particular thoughts have emerged – context, comparisons and creativity.

Firstly, context.  I have delivered entrepreneurial mindset programmes to groups as small as 10 and as large as 100 participants. My audiences have also been very diverse in their backgrounds.  They range from 12 to 13 year-old pupils in an inner-city London comprehensive school to the finance team of a global technology PLC. In a more academic business school context, I have taught entrepreneurial thinking to a class of predominantly British Year-2 undergraduates through to international postgraduates and entrepreneurs building high growth firms.  Beyond business schools I have worked with PhD students in the environmental, biological sciences and social sciences and, earlier this year, a room of African scientists, professionals and entrepreneurs. A diverse range of contexts in anyone’s book.

Secondly, comparisons.  Your first impression might be that this diversity of audiences must bring many differences. They do, almost too many differences to mention here. The obvious ones include age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, location, education, academic discipline, profession (or lack of) and so on.  What may be less obvious is the similarities that apply across all these audiences. For example, I always find that everyone engages once they feel safe to do so and that the energy builds over the session towards groups presenting entrepreneurial ideas. Another similarity is that second time around is quicker and better. Participants leave feeling more confident about their own ability to behave entrepreneurially.

Thirdly, creativity.  We have all heard the talk of Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerging to replace knowledge-based jobs in much the same way that robotics can replace manual jobs. OK, there is no doubt that AI is an immensely important development BUT it occurs to me that creativity is still the domain of the human brain. This is the ability to develop solutions based on envisioning different futures. That’s at the core of entrepreneurial thinking.

So, perhaps ‘Plug & Play’ programmes for stimulating an entrepreneurial mindset are even more important than I first thought. And, delivering impact with such programmes? That’s certainly the whole point of the training within RECIRCULATE.  As part of GCRF’s Growing Research Capability call, RECIRCULATE is designed to “strengthen and broaden skills and expertise to address specific challenges of developing regions and countries”. Of course, in a project focussed on the circular water economy, much of that relates to technical skills and expertise. But we also recognise that to translate excellent research in to practice, and so to contribute to the SDGs, needs researchers with other skills too. That’s exactly where an entrepreneurial mindset becomes so important.

We need researchers with the mindset to be open to different ways of thinking, not just of how they translate their research but even of thinking about applying for funding or communicating their results.  Or, dare I say it, researchers who are open to breaking the mould of some traditional ways of working? That comes back to creativity being at the heart of entrepreneurial thinking. Whether they are researchers in the UK, Nigeria, Ghana or any of the countries, isn’t that exactly what we all need if we are to succeed in working together to help deliver the SDGs?

Encouraging Researchers to Think Outside the Box (Original post)

Professor Nigel Lockett is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Head of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and was instrumental in the design and delivery of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation work package in the RECIRCULATE project. Nigel is a senior academic, experienced manager, serial entrepreneur and community leader who is passionate about the positive role that entrepreneurship can play in addressing global challenges. In 2015, Nigel was awarded the prestigious National Teaching Fellowship for his outstanding contribution to enterprise in higher education.


By Dr. Jaro Arero

Deputy Director, Basic Sciences & Engineering Division at the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO and a STI Policy Expert.

As global economic trends move from commodity to knowledge economy, ideas have become an important constituent of the modern day trading process. Ideas have replaced goods and services and are critical factors of production for start-ups and in some cases entire economies.

In the 21st century, national economies rely on the ability to create sustainable jobs or robust economies, capable of withstanding fluctuations in global markets through harnessing the power of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI); strengthened and up to date STI frameworks and policies will be central to realizing the African Union Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, most African countries do not have a functional STI policy in place, the few that have do not regularly review them to ensure they are in tandem with the fast changing national priorities and global trends. Like any other policy, STI policy needs to be championed at high levels of governments and this is also an indicator of the priority attached to it and which also comes with funding. A desktop search shows that only 52% of African countries have published STI policies.  Very few countries have ministries or state departments dedicated to Science, Technology and Innovation.

Figure 1 below shows that 27 % of African countries have Ministries dedicated to STI Policy while 23 % do not have a dedicated ministry nor infused in another ministry.

Figure 1: Proportion of African Countries with Ministries Dedicated to STI

STI is an enabler for economic progress and sustainable development considering all the challenges posed by population growth, diminishing wetlands, fresh water scarcity, food insecurity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels and climate change. African countries cannot afford to continue operating on a business as usual policy model, but need to have a paradigm shift and harness the benefits of STI to break out of poverty, dependence on foreign aid, export of raw agricultural produces and a work force unprepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

Without sufficient funding of Research and Development, countries will only be at the bottom of knowledge food chain where they can only consume knowledge generated elsewhere. Different continents have different regional priorities and so are their R & D priorities. Evidence-based solutions to societal challenges do not always work by copy pasting from one region to another. In 2010, the percentage of GDP allocated to R&D (GERD) in Africa ranged from 0.02 to 0.79 far below the recommended 2%. Compared to R&D investments in 2015 of tech giant countries such as Israel (GERD, 4.27%) and South Korea (GERD, 4.23%) a pattern comes out. These two countries economically stand outs despite being both being natural resources-scarce.

African countries still fare badly in other indicators of a strong STI culture. There is a positive correlation between research output and economic development. According to Elsevier, in 2012, the share of the world’s articles with African authors was 2.3%, which is a significant improvement compared to 1.2% in 1996. But considering that in 2012 population of Africa was 15% of the global population, Africa’s contribution in 2012 to knowledge generation was still disproportionately dismal.

Effective Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and regulations are critical in knowledge economies, as it provides a favourable environment for creators, innovators and investors. Using patent output to measure entrenchment of innovation culture, Africa as a region is an underperformer. It is not that innovations are not taking place in Africa or Africans are not innovative enough, the challenge emanate from weak Intellectual Property policies and poor enforcement of the existing ones. Small and micro-enterprises form the basis the continent’s economic base and also the epicenter of innovation; however, they are made vulnerable by unawareness of their IPR, weak enforcement of existing legislations and these exposes them to loss of their ideas. In 2013, Africa contributed only 0.1% of patents generated.


Africa’s poor performance in research output has its genesis in the shortage of researchers. Even of the few researchers produced by the universities in Africa, a significant number leave the continent due to lack of infrastructure and resources. According to UNESCO Science report 2015, in 2013 Africa’s share of researchers was 2.4 %; a ratio that has not changed since 2007 when it was 2.3%. The situation is more dire when looked at in absolute terms, the continent has just 79 scientists per million of inhabitants compared to better performing countries such as Brazil and United States where the ratio stands at 656 and 4,500, respectively. This lack of skilled human capital will certainly continue to slow down the continent’s economic take off and realizations of development goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals. It is estimated that to achieve the goals of SDG 6 (Clean water and Affordable sanitation); sub-Saharan Africa needs 2.5 million engineers. The bulk of students in African universities are enrolled in arts and business courses, in some countries they make up to 70% of the student population.

Without change in policy approach going by this current trajectory, Africa may not produce enough Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics professionals critically needed for socio-economic transformations to knowledge economy and sustainable society. As with other industrial revolution, the 4th industrial revolution may also by pass Africa.




By Yussuf  Utieyineshola

Various reports have pointed out on the critical role that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) plays in development. The 2005 World Summit in its outcome document titled “Science and Technology for Development” emphasized on the need to build STI systems for emplacing sustainable development.

Similar to this report were the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development Report (2004) which sought to identify approaches for the effective promotion and the use of science and technology to meet development goals; the World Bank report of 2003 titled “Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development” which suggested that development will not be possible without science and technology. Furthermore, The UN Millennium Project 2005 tagged “Innovation: Applying Knowledge in Development” also posited that developing countries must have the courage to break with traditional approaches and explore the role of STI in their development strategies.

Incidentally, the contributory role of STI to development cannot be determined if it is not measureable. Scientometric indicator is one of the most efficient and objective methods of assessing research and innovation performance. Scientometric analysis is the quantitative study of the innovation system based mainly on bibliometric and patent indicators.

In bibliometrics, the number of publications in a field is considered as an indicator of research activity while in patent analysis the number of patents awarded to an institution or a country is used as an indicator of technological activity.

Patent indicators within the Science and Technology (S&T) context are used to measure inventive performance, diffusion of knowledge and internationalization of innovative activities across countries, firms, industries, technology areas, etc. The philosophy underlying the use of bibliometric indicators as performance measures has been summarized in De Solla Price’s statement that “for those who are working at the research front, publication is not just an indicator but, in a very strong sense, the end product of their creative effort”.

Statistics on the world share of publications by different regions show that Africa produced only about 68,945 publications between the periods of 2000-2004 which is 1.8% of the World’s publications. India (Asia) produced 2.4% and Latin America 3.5% of the World’s research publications.

Research in Africa is concentrated mainly in two countries; South Africa and Egypt. These two countries produced just above 50% of the Continent’s publications. Examination of the Continent’s inventive profile, as manifested in patents, indicates that Africa produces less than one thousand of the world’s inventions. About 88% of the Continent’s inventive activity is concentrated in South Africa.

Monitoring and evaluating the various facets of the scientific sector is a necessary and integral tool needed for STI policy to deliver its role to the development of any society. African leaders and policy makers must appreciate the need for encouraging and supporting its institutions saddled with the responsibility of monitoring the performance of STI through identified indicators as practiced in the developed countries. They must be made to realize that STI indicators have become essential tools for assessing knowledge capacity in a country or region and as evidence for setting policy actions.

In order to project African countries to the top table in terms of scientific and technological development, researchers from various countries in the continent must ensure that proper documentation of their S&T activities are monitored and evaluated. They must also realize that publishing and patenting  scientific papers or results is not enough but that ranking of their scientific publications, which is a component of STI Indicator, will only be recognised if they are well indexed and recognized in global databases such as; S&T Data Centre of UNESCO Institute for Statistics (; OECD Science, Technology and R&D Statistics (; Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) (; African Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators Initiative (ASTII) (http://www.nepadst. org/astii/index.shtml); or in web-based S&T indicators like; Webometrics Ranking of World Universities (; and the WISER Project (Web Indicators for Science, Technology and Innovation Research) (http://www. and


By Chibukizo Okpiri

Many African countries have been hit hard by the present economic lacuna. Economic recession is the headlines in Nigeria,  Zimbabwe is plunged in debt exacerbated by  lack of a diversified export base and declining terms of trade that make it difficult for the country to adjust to changing world demand for tradable goods. In a bid to match its present economic and financial situation, Egypt devalued her currency. In 2015, Ethiopia faced one of the worst droughts in 30 years caused by El Niño which led to poor harvests and shortage of livestock forage. The fall of oil price has left Angola struggling with the reins of its economy. This begs the question which way Africa?

Agripreneurship is the solution. Agripreneurship is a union between agriculture and entrepreneurship; an agripreneur is a risk-taker, opportunist, initiator who deals with uncertainty in the agricultural business environment. The managerial, technical and innovative skills of entrepreneurship applied in the field of agriculture may yield positive results and well trained agripreneurs may become role models to all disheartened farmers. Upcoming agricultural entrepreneurs aim to reduce agricultural burden, generate employment opportunities for rural youth, control rural to urban migration, increase national income, support industrial development in rural areas and reduce pressure in urban cities.

Most African countries have comparative advantages of producing agricultural produce more than other countries yet they have nothing to show for it. Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava in the world but exports little to nothing. Cote d’Ivoire is the highest producer of cocoa in the world yet they have no local chocolate company that can compete globally and capitalize on the availability of raw materials; Ethiopia which is the major producer of oilseeds, grains and spices, which now account for nearly $750 – $800 million in export revenue.  Lack of local processing and packaging ensure that food products exit the country as cheap raw products and enter local western markets as more valuable processed goods after being processed in a local environment or in another western country.

There is a need for African countries to step up to their full potentials which is a carved out niche in the global market for themselves.  Agribusiness report 2013 opined that African countries have big opportunities to export into international markets. Almost all successful cases of African agricultural exports involve commodities like; cocoa, coffee, cotton, tobacco, tea, groundnuts, cashews, rubber, and more recently horticultural crops that tend to be grown in restricted areas with specialized agro-climatic characteristics which limits global supplies. Many of these commodities also require large amounts of labor/land for production or processing, which gives a clear advantage to African producers with plentiful low-cost labor and/or land. In the long run, given the more favorable outlook for world markets, African countries with relatively good land and water resources and low population density should be able to tap booming markets in rice, maize, soybeans, sugar, palm oil, biofuel, feedstocks, and emerge as major exporters of these commodities on world markets, following the example of recent successes in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

The time for Africa is now as Asian countries are crowded, face stiff competition and it is very expensive for most agribusiness firms and Agripreneurship which is the catalyst that will help Africa achieve this great fete. African governments should encourage and create an enabling environment for Agripreneurship to foster by encouraging financial institutions and banks which provide finances to agripreneurs to create special cells for providing easy finance to agripreneurs at concessional rates of interest and on easy repayment basis. Rural entrepreneurs should be ensured of proper supply of scarce raw materials on priority basis.  Subsidy may also be offered to make the products manufactured by agripreneurs cost competitive and reasonable; training which is essential for the development of entrepreneurial skills. This enables the rural agripreneurs to undertake the venture successfully as it imparts required skills to run the enterprise.

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