The Lion Science Park of the University of Nigeria, the first university-based science park in the country, was celebrated recently when it became a member of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) at the 35th World Conference on Science Parks and Areas of Innovation held in Isfahan, Iran.

Isfahan Science and Technology Town is a science park that has been in existence for 20 years in the city of Isfahan in Iran. It won the bid to host the 2018 conference at the General Assembly of the 33rd World Conference held in Moscow, Russia, in 2016.

At the conference, Lion Science Park was officially inducted into the World Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation as an affiliate member.

The ceremony saw more than 20 new members from various continents join IASP, bringing the total membership of the organisation to about 386. Josep Miquel Pique, president of IASP, welcomed the new members and presented them with certificates of membership. 

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“I am happy about the progress we have made so far in pursuing this goal of setting up a world-class science park at the University of Nigeria,” said Professor Benjamin Ozumba, vice-chancellor of the University of Nigeria. “This journey started last year, when I took a team of 10 senior faculty members to Sweden to do a course in entrepreneurship, innovation ecosystem and science park development. Since then, we have made huge progress. This conference has fully integrated Lion Science Park with the international network. With the lessons learnt from this experience, plans and execution will be a lot easier. More than 215 research groups at the university are ready to deliver impactful research solutions to companies. We have started – we currently have a temporary building and are planning to develop the 50 hectares of land as the permanent location of Lion Science Park.”

Professor Kenneth Ofokansi, the director of international collaboration for the university, added, “Lion Science Park will encourage regional, national and international scientific research and development initiatives, creating strategic synergies with private, public and institutional research institutes and centres seeking to optimise their research and development activities by collaborating with researchers, research groups and research institutes at the university.”

He continued, “When completed, Lion Science Park will provide graduates with direct and unhindered access to specialised innovative infrastructure of the highest standard, exposing them to an outstanding training opportunity for applied scientific innovation and entrepreneurial skills. The park already has tenant companies such as Huawei Technologies’ Huawei Authorised Information and Network Academy (HAINA) and Mirai Denchi. HAINA trains certified candidates in Huawei technologies and already certified students from the university are embarking on an all-expenses-paid study trip to China in the next few weeks, paid for by Huawei.” 

“Being part of this conference has given us a grasp of best practices around the globe,” said Chinwe Okoli, manager of Lion Science Park. “We have been linked to the best from around the world and we have learnt from case studies and success stories. We have also created a broad network to tap into, for various levels of partnership and collaboration. As a new science park, we can now avoid certain procedures or models that have proven not to work. We know better now; we know what model is most suitable for us and who to turn to, to share ideas. I can say that, as the manager of Lion Science Park, I have learnt from the masters and the eggheads in science, innovation and technology from around the world, under one roof. It is time to sensitise and engage more companies in Nigeria to connect with Lion Science Park and both sides to reap the full benefits that such synergy offers.”

Roar Nigeria incubation hub at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where students and other young people gather to develop apps and software to solve local needs. Photo: Patrick Egwu

The International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation has its headquarters in Malaga, Spain, and is the global body that links Science and Technology Parks and Areas of Innovation from around the world. IASP holds annual conferences, which sees science parks from around the world come together to share knowledge on developments in technology, science and innovation best practices and case studies.

Other attractions at the conference include facilitating technology transfers, matchmaking, B2B meetings and networking sessions, all with the goal of “linking the best”.

Established in 2017 and inaugurated in July 2018, the Lion Science Park of the University of Nigeria operates with advisory support from Ideon Science and Lundavision, both in Sweden, and is designed as an innovation hub and a sustainable development project in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 17.