The Vice Chancellor of Takoradi Technical University, Rev. Prof. John Frank Eshun, has emphasized the need for Technical Universities to be at the forefront of new research and application opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Opening the TTU's 2nd Biennial Research Conference, Rev. Professor John Frank Eshun said although the pandemic has made both general life and academic life difficult, the post-COVID-19 pandemic world require a new generation academicians with a new way of thinking and doing things through research.
“The pandemic has brought about unprecedented research opportunities and ideas to study and research into related areas such as vaccine development, epidemiology and healthcare equipment and infrastructure...Meanwhile, travel restrictions have affected ongoing research. It is extremely difficult to ignore the cancellation of research work which requires internships, industrial placement of researchers in companies and institutes. So, we ask ourselves, what is the role of technical universities in championing research in this era?...Technical Universities must be spearheading new research and application relevant to alleviating societal challenges brought on with the emergence of the pandemic as well as harnessing the opportunities presented by the coronavirus. "The pandemic has created opportunities for researchers to delve into new areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Collaborative Robotics (Cobot) and Machine Learning (ML) among others“, he said.
The Vice Chancellor giving how Technical Universities can stand to be counted told the virtual Research Conference being participated by 52 researchers expected to present 25 papers from several universities from Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Malawi etc, that it can only be achieved if leadership of Technical Universities show commitment.
“Research in Technical Universities drives teaching and learning to produce the technically skilled labour force that society needs...Building local capacity in research is necessary for accessing the opportunities and managing the risks of an ever-changing world. Research management faces many challenges in Technical Universities especially after the global Covid-19 pandemic. Advocacy and strategic engagement efforts is needed by the leadership of Technical Universities in championing research through engagement with stakeholders and policymakers...In line with this TTU has therefore procured about 250 computers to be distributed to various department with the Graphics Department alone to get 50 out of the that. "We are also working hard to improve internet connectivity on the campus to facilitate research works”, he added.
He further called for the incentivization of University research which must be consistent with national research policies and should be implemented.
Giving the rationale for the two-day Research Conference themed; Championing Research within the University Space in the COVID-19 Era - The Role of Technical Universities, the Chairperson of TTU’s Publications Board that organized the conference, Professor Maame Afua Nkrumah, said the 2nd Biennial Research Conference is the first in the history of the University to be conducted on a digital platform as a response to new ways of sharing knowledge with large numbers of people and also in line with the social distancing norms due to the pandemic. She however rehashed the appropriateness of the research conference.
“The quality of research work directly translates to the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, thereby benefiting the students, the society and the country. The main purposes of research are to inform action, gather evidence for theories, and contribute to developing knowledge in a field of study... It is well-accepted that academic research has contributed enormously to finding solutions to many problems faced by our society and industries, therefore TTU cannot be an exception... This multidisciplinary research conference is required not just for students and academicians but for all professionals and non-professionals alike to improve their knowledge and learn new things in research“, she said.
The Guest Speaker for the 2021 TTU 2nd Biennial Research Conference, who is the Vice Chancellor of Sunyani Technical University, Prof. Engineer Kwadwo Adinkrah-Appiah highlighting how research can accelerate national development said there is an important linkage between a country’s research strength and its economic developments.
“Research plays a key role in supporting the growth and development of a country’s economy as well as improving the quality of life of its citizenry. As such, there is an important link between a country’s research capacity and its economic development. Outcomes of innovative research are responsible for solutions to societal challenges and important advancements in society such as the COVID-19 Vaccine, HIV medications, malaria vaccine, as well as the construction of major infrastructure around us – from roads to utility networks”, he said.
Prof. Engineer Adinkrah-Appiah while agreeing to the challenges academia has faced due to COVID-19 however outlined some success universities have achieved despite COVID.
“Technical Universities such as Sunyani Technical University (STU), Takoradi Technical University (TTU) and others also engaged in the production of Hand Sanitizers, nose masks and various appropriate technologies for hand-washing. In terms of teaching and learning, Universities in Ghana have adopted a hybrid approach of combining face-to-face lectures and virtual teaching sessions to minimize person-to-person infections from the virus. And regarding research, many tools, including digital technology and diligent laboratory practices similar to their counterparts around the globe, have been deployed by the various universities in the country to ensure that research output is not negatively affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic”, he added.
On the way forward for deepened research in universities, Prof. Engineer Adinkrah-Appiah also urged government and Industry to come together to establish Research and Innovation Departments in the various Universities across the country to take on research projects that could lead to economic transformation of our country.
In a keynote address by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology, South Africa, Prof. Sibusiso Moyo, expressed the need for reskilling and retooling of both universities students and lecturers to enable effective research that promote societal advancement.