NCDMB, Founder Institute unveil high-potential portfolio companies, pledge sustained promotion of research, innovation
The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) on Thursday unveiled 17 portfolio companies that have successfully concluded research- and innovation-based training at its Technology Incubation and Innovation Centre (TIIC), signalling intensification of its capacity-building initiatives that birthed its Project 100 companies a few years ago.
The 17 companies which had enrolled at the Centre as energy industry startups were among 54 incubates that underwent the 7-month programme initiated by NCDMB in partnership with the Nigerian chapter of Founder Institute (FI), based in Silicon Valley, California, United States.
Research and innovation endeavours of the companies have yielded products in fields as diverse as pipeline protection technology, embedded systems, drilling fluid additives, gas penetration technology, tele-medicine, electric-powered engines for inland water transportation/charging solutions, among others.
In a keynote, the Executive Secretary of the Board, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, said TIIC was established with the strategic intent to serve as “Resource Centre for obtaining data on priority research areas in the oil and gas industry,” “Low-cost transition platform to incubate research ideas into tangible products,” “Ecosystem for innovators to think through new ideas for technology adaptation or process improvement,” and “Networking between researchers, investors and end-users in the oil and gas industry and its linkage sectors.”
He expressed confidence that, “Following the conclusion of this accelerator program, the innovators are now well-positioned to scale up and commercialize their products.” He charged the beneficiary start-ups of the incubation programme “to continue leveraging the network exposure and effectively fast-track their products to market, while adhering to all relevant compliance and standards requirements.”
The NCDMB boss who was represented by the Director, Corporate Services, Mr. Patrick Daziba Obah, said, “The journey of NCDMB Research and Development is a long one – a tough one for us.” Underlining the complexity of the programme, he wondered, “What if no one graduated…especially if you are talking about Founder Institute and Silicon Valley?”
According to him, “Beyond such preliminary concerns, how to even get investors, potential sponsors, seed funding to enhance business capacities of these portfolio companies,” posed another subset of challenges. Besides, “After getting your product design, how do you proceed to prototyping?”
“We had to do something new in R&D – not just what others were doing,” he emphasised, noting that the “concept of commercialization of R&D ideas” made some difference. Expressing a sense of triumph on the part of the Board, he declared: “I reckon today as one of those days that has brought fulfilment to Nigeria.”
In an “Overview of NCDMB TIIC Operating Model,” the Board’s Director of Planning, Research and Statistics, Alhaji Abdulmalik Halilu, emphasised the importance of R&D as “a major enabler for local capacity development,” lamenting that “Over 70 per cent of our software requirements are met through importation.” According to him, “Under a do-nothing scenario,” Nigeria was losing some US$2 billion annually.
He pointed out that with over 200 degree-awarding institutions Nigeria is not in short supply of institutional capacity to produce manpower to drive development. The trend, he noted could be reversed through R&D, highlighting successive stages in the incubation programme at the TIIC, beginning with ideas, development of a business model, field trials and then writing proposals and getting a business registered.
While underlining the relevance of mentorship, he expressed happiness at the milestone covered, noting that, “We are celebrating them (17 portfolio companies) because they have moved from ideation to the market phase.”
A resource person for Mentorship, Mr. Adebayo Omole, Managing Partner, Matrix Solicitors, counselled the new portfolio companies to “Get all the certifications required,” “Get your ideas patented,” “Make sure your operational agreements are tight,” “Deliver on your promises,” “Make sure your technologies don’t fail,” “Open yourselves to collaboration,” and “Defend your brand; don’t let people steal your intellectual property.”
Another resource person, Engr. ThankGod Egbe, Managing Director, CYPHERCRESCENT LTD., advised the incubates that having done so much thus far, they should “leave the technical area, move into marketing,” pointing out the importance of marketing communication and related activities.
Earlier in an opening address, the Managing Director, Founder Institute, Abuja, Mrs. Ajuma Ataguba, commended the NCDMB for its initiatives in capacity building, particularly the establishment of the TIIC, noting that Founder Institute was appreciative of the partnership that has evolved between the two organisations. She pledged to continue to partner the Board in such endeavours.
Each of the 17 portfolio companies had an opportunity to highlight and demonstrate its product, showing what makes such product different from and preferrable to any other existing in the oil and gas industry and linkage sectors of the economy. All equally signified their desire for equity participation by prospective investors.
The new companies represent a significant expansion in the capacity-building profile of the NCDMB, which in January 2019 started an initiative known as Project 100 Companies under which it has nurtured such number of wholly indigenous companies into big players in the oil and gas industry through strategic interventions by way of funding and creating access to markets.