My R4i Experience: Kolawole Adebayo Lawal (PhD)

From The Polytechnic, Ibadan

When I was nominated to attend the Research for Impact (R4i) initiative, I anticipated yet another routine academic gathering. Little did I know that what awaited me was not merely a workshop, but an eye-opening event that would redefine my scholarly pursuits and ignite an unquenchable feeling for innovation and impact in me. After dedicating more than 15 years to academia and accumulating over two decades of expertise as an urban development consultant, I thought I had encountered every conceivable scenario. Yet, as I entered the serene but vibrant venue of the R4i workshop at Innov8 Hub, Abuja, a wave of anticipation mixed with curiosity swept over me.

Immediately after the opening ceremony, I joined my cohort to take a guided tour of the facilities at the venue, witnessing firsthand the physical manifestations of innovations, transformative change, and societal Impact within Innov8 Hub. The experience ignited an aura of possibilities. Little did I realize that what laid ahead would be a turning point in my way of thinking about societal problems and solutions. It also unraveled myriads of innovative thought, that would pave the path for a paradigm shift in my approach to research and embrace the gospel of innovation, impact, and commercialization.

R4i unfolded before me like an unraveling of opportunities, with each session presenting a sense of discovery and empowerment. From problem exploration to concept development, assumption testing, business modeling, and rapid prototyping. The journey also encompassed emotional intelligence, operating models, agile concepts, prototype development, public speaking, and intellectual property protection. It was a holistic engagement into innovation and impact, merging theory with practical application. The process of identifying societal problems aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and brainstorming ideas for innovative solutions was nothing short of revelatory. It was fascinating to see how we could use creative exploration to generate a myriad of complex societal problems and break them down into actionable ideas. Through collaborative ideation sessions, we came up with creative solutions that had the potential to make a real difference and impact. Generally, each topic of the R4i workshop enriched my experience, igniting a renewed sense of purpose. 

What stuck with me the most was not merely the acquisition of knowledge, but the cultivation of a mindset primed for innovation and impact with the emphasis on turning research into practical solutions that can be commercialized. Armed with newfound insights, methodologies and toolkits of skills gathered from R4i, I now realize that academia shouldn’t exist in a bubble—we have a responsibility to apply our knowledge to solve real-world problems.

As I reflect upon my R4i experience, I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Indeed, it is through the lens of imagination that we unlock the door to innovation, paving the way for a future defined not by limitations, but by boundless possibilities. I am filled with a sense of renewed vigor and purpose, no longer bound by the constraints of conventional thinking. I am emboldened to chart a course marked by innovation, impact, and transformative change. I am ready to translate my ideas into tangible solutions that can make a meaningful impact. With each step forward, I am propelled by the conviction that my research has the power to catalyze positive societal transformation, one idea at a time.

Overall, R4i was a wake-up call for me to rethink how I approach my work and embrace a more innovative and businesslike mindset. 

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