Innovative UK awards two Unilorin researchers N7bn grant

Two researchers in the Department of Food Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, University of Ilorin, Professor J. O. Olaoye and Dr. M. O. Sunmonu, have won £141,959 (about N788, 862,483.27k) grant from Innovate UK for the 2022/2023 Africa AgriFood Knowledge Transfer Partnership (AAKTP).

The award was granted to the University of Ilorin in partnership with De Montfort University, UK and Microscale Embedded Limited, Abuja.

This was made known in a Grant Offer Letter dated November 30, 2022 and signed by the Deputy Director, Operations Delivery of Innovate UK, Barry Shaw.

Innovate UK is the funding agency for the AAKPT award grant. It is the United Kingdom’s national innovation agency that supports business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies, and UK regions.

The AAKPT grant will be used to train and coordinate farmers and to also work on building software for farmers that will enable them to access farm processes at a very convenient instance.

Speaking in Ilorin on Monday, Professor J. O. Olaoye, who is the Academic Lead for the project, said that “the grant award is Agricultural based. It is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership award called African Agriculture Knowledge Transfer Partnership (AAKTP)”.

According to him, “It is a joint award for three groups, De Montfort University, University of Ilorin, and Microscale Embedded Limited with the grant award of £141,959, to be shared among the three. The chunk of the money, £77,839, will be coming to the University of Ilorin because it has the highest responsibility and the De Montfort University will be having £64,120”.

He said that the three groups, through their representatives, had earlier put up a collective proposal with major work done by Dr. Sunmonu of the University of Ilorin as the Academic Supervisor.

“The lead supervisor is to create an enabling environment while the academic supervisor is the brain behind the project with the guidance of the lead supervisor. We must give kudos to Dr. Sunmonu for his resilience in this particular award. The company also has its chairman and the supervisor at the company level; the other University also has her own lead and academic supervisor”, he said.

Professor Olaoye said, “This particular competition started in 2019/2020 when the results of 2021 were released and we were declared winner almost of the same amount but even higher but because of COVID we could not take it then. To the award company, they believed that it is our second award but to us it is the first because we could not assess the first one due to COVID.”

On the project, the don said, “By the directive, the project has to be carried out in Nigeria and the University of Ilorin is the sole University to carry out the project under the ‘Innovate UK’ supervision, to ensure that we are doing the right thing in accordance to the demand of the granting body of the award. That is why we are collaborating.

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“The company has to come again because it is not just paperwork alone; it transcends that. The focus is on how we can mitigate against agricultural loss, and doing that involves coming out with the concept of putting all stakeholders within the agricultural value chain of multiple crops on the same page, such that we have producers, this particular research work will assist the farmers in doing the right thing at the right time to get the best productivity from the work they are carrying out.

On the gain to be derived by the University of Ilorin from the grant, Professor Olaoye said, “Wherever the award is mentioned, the name of the University will be on the world map. It is also an achievement as it will enhance our Webometric ranking. It also gives the University opportunity for our alumni to be employed in this project. We will also be training our alumni”.

“When it starts, we hope that we will get a Laboratory where we will be training our students on Global Information Services. This is a kind of system where we can get information about a specific location to relate to what happens globally.

“We will bring in the farmers, processors, and marketers for training with not less than 20 participants, and at the end of the training, we would have trained over 150 trainees that would have passed through this stage of software development machine. This will also generate patenting among scholars and researchers who will be participating.

“Before the expiration of this project, a machine will be developed that farmers will have handy, to assist them to know what to do. It will also involve the students, the farmers, and other stakeholders. The machine will be handy and will assist them in ensuring that we mitigate agricultural losses”.

“The project will enhance the potential of the farmers because before you go on to farming there is basic knowledge acquired, you don’t need so much education with what we want to develop”.

As part of the process to kick start the project, Prof. Olaoye, also disclosed that a mini-conference will take place in Lagos by April 27, 2023, to enable all awardees to have one and one opportunity to interact with Kent Frame who will be coming from the UK to meet the award winners of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

In his remarks, the University of Ilorin AAKPT Academic Supervisor, Dr M. O. Sunmonu, disclosed that based on his assigned responsibility, he will be working with the associate to put them on track, check if there are lapses and make sure that the project meets the standard and furnished as planned.

Dr. Sunmonu, who expressed happiness about the grant, said that it has put the University on the world map again through his efforts.

“I will supervise the work of the associates to put them on track if there are any lapses. It is a 15 months project. Initially it was to be 24 months,” he added.

-Nigerian Tribune