MEET OUR DVC RESEARCH, INNOVATIONS, CONSULTANCY AND EXTENSIONS
By Prisca Adaeze Nenger and Bogere Stuart
The place of research and innovation cannot be underestimated or overemphasized in any institution of higher learning globally; research being an inquiry from the known to the unknown and innovation being a continuous advancement in the same vein. And at Kampala International University (KIU), in a bid to continue with our mandate of exploring the heights, we do not take for granted the place of research, innovation, consultancy and extensions.
As part of his mandate, our Deputy Vice-chancellor Research, Innovations Consultancy and Extensions (DVC-RICE), Associate Professor Chukwuemeka Jude Diji, has taken up the mantle to lead the drive of research and innovations at KIU.
Associate Prof. Diji obtained a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ibadan in 2008, Masters of Science degree (MSc) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ibadan in 1997 and a Bachelors of Science (B.Sc) from the Obafemi Awolowo University (Formerly University of Ife) in 1987. He has a professional postgraduate qualifying Diploma in Management Consultancy practice and Organizational Transformation of the International Professional Managers Association (IPMA – UK).
He is the Chairman of the African Research Council on Sustainable Development (ARSCD) and Professional Research Council Member of the International Institute for Policy Review and Development Strategies (IIPRDS) and immediate past Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (2015 – 2017). He is an African Climate Leadership Fellow (2018 – 2020) and currently an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Deputy Vice – chancellor for Research, Innovation, Consultancy and Extension (DVC–RICE) here at Kampala International University, Kampala, Uganda.
Prior to his joining KIU, Associate Prof. Diji has received several awards of excellence locally and internationally, owing to his outstanding leadership capacities. In 1994, He was awarded the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) price for contribution to Engineering in Nigeria, as part of the process of registration as a certified professional engineer with NSE/COREN and at the completion of his doctoral studies in January 2008 received the University of Ibadan postgraduate school award for the best outstanding PhD thesis for the 2007/2008 academic session. As part of his post – doctoral studies, he received two major fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the first was in January, 2010 for specialized academic linkage at the Centre for Study in Renewable and Sustainable Energy (CSRSE) at the University of Botswana, Gaborone, while the second was for Staff training and research capacity building at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), USA from March – May, 2011.
He is a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Automobile Engineers’ Institute and registered engineer with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). He is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES), the National/International Association of Energy Economics, as well as a member of the African Round Table on Sustainable Consumption and Production (ARSCP), an arm of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). He is also a Certified International Professional Manager (CIPM) of the International Professional Managers Association (IPMA – UK).
In March, 2019, He served as an Expert Reviewer for the Climate Research for Development (CR4D) research grant applications to strengthen link between climate science research and climate information needs to support development in Africa The programme is an initiative of the African Academy of Science (AAS), the UK Department of International Development (DFID), Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) and the African Climate policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Also in May, 2019, he was appointed as nominated Expert on the roaster of experts of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC).
In the area of biomedical engineering, he served as an external reviewer for National institute of Health (NIH) mentored research grants programme, Building Research and Innovation in Nigeria Science (BRAINS), for mentoring Junior faculties of the college of Medicine, University of Lagos, in collaboration with Northwestern University, Harvard University and APIN for the period 2015 – 2020. The grant is from the Department of Health & Human Services, NIH, Forgarty International Centre, ID43TW010134-01 and for a brief period served as Co – Principal Investigator, “NEST 360 – Scaling up a Neonatal Intervention Package” (January – August ,2019). The research involves scientific inquiry related to Newborn Essential Solution and Technology (NEST) to reduce newborn mortality in Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. The project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies and the Children Investment Fund. The research is led by the William Marsh Rice University, Houston, TX, USA under the sponsored research agreement no. RO304.
In an interview with our staff reporter, Prof. Diji takes us through his mandate here in KIU and what the future holds.
KGT: Good afternoon Sir. Can we meet you?
DVC-RICE: I am called Chukwuemeka Jude Diji. I am an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Deputy Vice-chancellor Research, Innovation, Consultancy and Extension (DVC-RICE), here at Kampala International University (KIU). I hail from Delta State of Nigeria in West Africa. I had most of my education in the South-Western part of Nigeria. Before I joined KIU, I was a Senior Lecturer and Head of Department, Mechanical Engineering at University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State, Nigeria, and I am married, with 3 children.
KGT: Can you tell us about your mandate here at KIU
DVC-RICE: My mandate here is to first and foremost, building the university research agenda, in other words, the university framework for doing research. So far, we have been able to organize the research units, through the establishment of a Research Directorates, Research Deans and Research Coordinators.
In the aspect of research – we want to move KIU to the next level; we all know that universities are involved in teaching, research and community development. KIU has done very well in teaching; they have consolidated in teaching effectively, in the last 15 years (over the last couple of years), it’s now time to move research to the next level. In other words, we want KIU to be visible, not just as a teaching university, but as research inclined university, where research is conducted in all aspects and in all fields, particularly in our colleges.
In the aspect of innovation – innovation is tied a lot to entrepreneurship and startups. My mandate is to set up a KIU centre of excellence for innovation and entrepreneurship, which will basically have three functions: business startup, an innovation hub and we will be involved in entrepreneurial research.
Entrepreneurial research – in the sense that we will begin to look at the issues affecting research in Uganda. Globally, Uganda is recognized as a country that has the highest startups in terms of entrepreneurial activity, but unfortunately, Uganda, is also the country that has the highest mortality of businesses. So, in entrepreneurial research, we want to find out what are the reasons for this? We want to interface with government policies and come up with solutions that will help change this trend, so that even as Ugandans are good startups, they will also maintain good business.
At the innovation hub – we want to host innovators; people who are doing different types of innovations, to give them a space where they can continue their innovation activities, and hopefully, when they partner with KIU (since they will be using our facilities), they will be able to bring out new things into the market.
With regards to business startups – we want to look at students projects. Since I got here, I have been able to realize that for the entrepreneurial programmes here, the students write business plans, and that’s where it ends, but with the new KIU centre of excellence for entrepreneurship and innovations, we are going to select businesses that are very functional, businesses that we know are implementable, and start them up as a business set up, so that the university can begin to incubate a lot of new businesses, and give birth to new businesses as well.
So, with regards to the mandate for consultancy – the intention is to set up a KIU consultancy limited. It will be the arm of the university for doing business. Business in an academic environment, involves a training school. It involves doing some partnership with other businesses, it will involve hosting other institutions outside the country. It will involve planning seminars, workshops and other activities that have financial returns back to the university.
Extension services are like strategic partnerships and currently, the university has quite a lot of partnerships and extensions. The objective here, is to consolidate on them, build on new ones, in such a way that it will benefit both staff, students, and the university, because, ultimately, we want to use these extension services to project the name of the university to the global world, and ultimately, to also use it as a way of ensuring that the university has created visibility and improves on its ranking globally.
KGT: From your agenda in terms of RICE, what future are you taking KIU, few years down the line?
DVC-RICE: Well, the first future is to instill a research culture among the staff. In certain colleges, and in certain individuals, research, is not too much of a priority. So, the first thing is to have a research culture. A culture where academics and those who are working here in future, will appreciate that in as much as they do teaching, they must also do research work and publish their research outputs in a reputable global and international journal.
The second aspect, of course, is to have a KIU that runs good businesses; in terms of its consultancy services. Business is not just in the terms of buying and selling, but academic business, so that we have a viable training school where we are able to do a lot of workshops, seminars and conferences. We can co-host with other people, and through that, we are able to provide additional income. No institution has enough money to run, and anything that will bring in extra income, will be a good thing to KIU.
More particularly also, is the business incubation area. Here, we want to provide a place for our students, both those who are in school and those who have left, who are interested in going into business to have businesses, maybe, we can also pioneer the process whereby we will correct that culture where Uganda has high business startups and high business mortality. We want to see how we can correct it, by creating a place where our students can do business so as to be properly guided, and their business will survive.
More so, we are looking at a situation where we want to make sure that KIU, through its extension services and strategic partnerships, we can create a reputation in such a way that anybody coming to East Africa, will want to deal with us, likewise, partner with us to do research at our own regional and national basis.
KGT: As a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, how do you cope with being a DVC-RICE?
DVC-RICE: Every field has a research component, and apart from being a mechanical engineer, I have also ventured out into aspects of my work. Research, is an all-encompassing field; I have done research in environment; in small scale business development; I have done research in biomedical engineering and in aspects of engineering education. So I see myself apart from being a mechanical engineer, I have developed capacities and capabilities in other areas. As, as a DVC-RICE, I intend to bring to bear particularly on this job, all the experiences I have gathered, apart from the fact that I have spent 10 years of my professional career in building and constructing buses, and doing other activities.
KGT: Do you have plans for School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – SEAS, being that you are Professor of engineering?
DVC-RICE: Of course! I intend to teach there, I just don’t want to come and do administrative work alone. I intend to be part of the teaching staff in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – SEAS, and I have particularly told SEAS, that I intend to teach Research methods, to see how I can improve the research capacity of students, but essentially in engineering.
KGT: What message do you have for upcoming engineers?
DVC-RICE: Don’t build your career on excitement, open up your mind and hearts and expand, because engineers are builders. We are innovators, and there is engineering in virtually every sphere of life; there is medical engineering, engineers work with educational technologist, engineers work with lawyers as energy lawyers, engineers work as energy economist, so engineers are everywhere. Engineers should open up and broaden up their skill sets, because, they fit virtually everywhere, in terms of their professional career.
KGT: What message do you have for KIU community?
DVC-RICE: I have two messages for the community. One, change is always difficult; a lot of people suspect change. For example, when we started the idea of staff profiles, it was greeted with certain suspicion by certain individuals, as if we were doing an audit (no). Change is something that we must do. Every institution goes through changes, the first thing is trust.
Anything, that will improve the visibility of KIU, will benefit both the management the staff and students of KIU. So, the first thing, I want to appeal to the community is, we need their trust, we are not trying to audit or create a situation where we are trying to sever people (no), we are only trying to use the staff profiling to be able to identify areas of need for training, to be able to identify the deficiencies in research, so that with the data collected, we will be able to plan good training programmes and activities that will improve the research of our staff and then collectively and individually we believe, we will be able to improve the overall profile of the university about research.
So, we appeal for trust, we appeal for cooperation, from the community and more importantly, where there are doubts, they should be able to come to my office and we will clear all their doubts.
Chukwuemeka J. Diji, PhD
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Deputy Vice – Chancellor
Research, Innovations, Consultancy and Extension
Kampala International University