1 December 2015

Lancaster University partners with the African Development Bank at the Paris Climate talks to explore how university-business collaboration can help Africa adapt to climate change

A side event will be held in the Bank’s Africa Pavilion at COP21, the Paris climate summit where the future of the global response to climate change is being developed. 

The side event will explore how eco-innovation - developing sustainable products, services and technology - can help Africa adapt to climate change. This reflects two of the Bank’s long term priorities: increasing human capital and building Africa’s green economy.

The event comes out of long running discussions between the African Development Bank (AfDB)  and the award-winning Centre for Global Eco-innovation (CGE), run by Lancaster University. It follows several visits to the African Development Bank in Côte D’Ivoire by Tim Clarke and Dr Akanimo Odon from the Lancaster Environment Centre.

The CGE links student researchers and academics with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) needing research support to develop their business. SMEs rarely have the time, money or facilities to do this kind of research by themselves.

“This way of working with business is not very well established in Africa currently and is generating a lot of interest, in particular the sort of relationships we have pioneered through the Centre for Global Eco-innovation, ranging from short undergraduate projects to full length PhDs,” said Professor Nigel Paul, from Lancaster Environment Centre who is the Director of CGE. 

“One thing that emerged from our discussions was an enthusiasm for creating a free Massive Open Online Course or MOOC, about Eco-innovation for Climate Change Adaptation in Africa.

“The advantage of a MOOC, especially one accessible via mobile phones, is that it can be accessed by almost everyone in Africa including businessmen, academics and policy makers” said Nigel.

A taster video for the MOOC will be shown at the side event, which is being held at midday on December 7 in the main COP21 conference centre.

In a related initiative, Lancaster Environment Centre is hosting three African visitors from the banking, university and government sectors, who want to support eco-innovation projects in their own countries.

“The initiative is supported by the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship,” said Professor Kirk Semple, Head of Outreach and International Engagement at the Lancaster Environment Centre who, along with Dr Akanimo Odon, is hosting the visitors.

“Our bid for funding clearly identified gaps between academia, industry and government in West Africa and the role of eco-innovation in bridging these gaps.”

“Climate change is a very big issue for Africa,” said Maximus Ugwuoke, Head of Environmental Planning and Climate Change at the Lagos State Government.

“As a developing country, Nigeria doesn’t have the adaptation capabilities that we need to mitigate the impact of climate change at the moment. 

“This approach offers many opportunities. There are a lot of companies looking at environmental issues in our region. Renewable energy is a new market in Africa for instance. We want to learn from what you have done in the UK and to build links with the corporate sector in Lagos.”

Stanislaus Deh, Head of Public Sector at Stanbic Bank in Ghana believes the African banking system should be helping Ghana develop the knowledge and skills it needs to adapt to climate change. 

“Funding PhDs is very expensive and there is a backlog of people wanting to study for them in Ghana.  We are looking at how we can provide flexible loans for people, professionals and institutions that want to go into research on climate change issues, and in particular to fund PhDs.”

“The gap between academia and industry in Nigeria in particular and West Africa in general is evident in the high rate of unemployed graduates, who often require retraining by employers,” said Christopher Emokaro, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Benin in Nigeria.

“While academics concentrate on blue sky research, industries are in dire need of proven solutions with a low risk.

“I am here to study the Centre for Global Eco-innovation model and see how it could be adopted at the University of Benin as a panacea for bridging the Academia – Industry gap.

Lancaster University already has established partnership with several universities in West Africa, including the University of Benin, and hopes to develop these links further.

“Our aspiration is to work with African universities to build their capacities to work effectively with their local businesses and ultimately with global businesses to develop the products, services and technology that Africa will need to adapt to climate change,” said Nigel.

“Africa is in a position where it needs to develop new infrastructure. They can do it the right, sustainable way, learning from what we did wrong, and so develop the right products for Africa.