The Oduro block houses the engineering faculty of Takoradi Technical University (TTU). Our destination was the fourth floor.
Prof. Bentil's outer office looks like a prosperous pharmacy shop at Makola, with a lot of students and employees milling around.
He invited one Kenneth Boateng to sit in with us to discuss the ambitious plan of TTU to manufacture transformers locally.
Sharckles: Is TTU considering the production of transformers?
Prof. Bentil: Yes, as part of the university's pursuit of becoming a center of excellence for innovation, research, and societal impact, our vision is to become more visible.
We have signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinhoyi University of Zimbabwe and Harare Institute of Technology. This MOU includes plans for staff and student exchange programs, staff development, and collaborative research.
One opportunity we've identified is Zimbabwe's "education 5.0" model, which emphasizes teaching, research, community service, innovation, and industrialization. To drive Ghana's industrialization for socio-economic development, we want to adopt this approach.
They have established an innovation hub, and we plan to create a similar hub. Our goal is for our research to result in prototypes that meet our country's needs, which can then be improved with industry collaboration and moved from the lab to production.
During our discussions, we learned that these Zimbabwean universities were producing transformers, which sparked our interest in pursuing this area. We are currently in talks with them to learn their technology and potentially import it to produce transformers for Ghana.
Additionally, we've had discussions with the Kantanka group of companies. We're also in partnership with other technical universities like KNUST and UMAT. While partnering with local universities is on the table, it has not been initiated yet, but it's in our plans.
Sharckles: How are these Zimbabwean universities producing transformers?
Prof. Bentil: These universities have adopted the "education 5.0" model, which includes innovation and industrialization alongside teaching, research, and community service.
They have established an innovation hub where they showcase technologies generated by the university, including prototypes. They invite industries and government representatives to view these innovations. The government then supports the production of these technologies locally in collaboration with industries.
Sharckles: Are these transformers being manufactured on the universities' campuses?
Prof. Bentil: According to them, they have the technology and have partnered with industries to produce transformers in commercial quantities. They start with prototypes on campus and then collaborate with industries to scale up production.
Sharckles: Do you know which institution in Zimbabwe is responsible for specifying the transformers?
Prof. Bentil: I don't have that information at the moment. Their innovation hub is primarily focused on generating technologies from the university's research.
Sharckles: Do you have an innovation hub on your campus?
Prof. Bentil: We are in the process of establishing an innovation center where the research and innovations of our lecturers and students can be exhibited to the public and industries. We recently held an innovation fair on campus, where student research projects were showcased to the community and industries. We plan to make it a biannual event to keep up with the dynamic nature of technology.
Sharckles: What materials and ingredients do you need to produce transformers?
Prof. Bentil: I am not an electrical engineer, but our Vice Dean, who is an electrical engineer, is spearheading this project. He will be able to provide details on the materials and processes involved when you have the opportunity to interview him.
Sharckles: Have you estimated the nation's need for transformers?
Prof. Bentil: Our Vice Dean is responsible for these details, but we do recognize the need for transformers all across the country, including areas that still lack access to electricity. Local production could potentially reduce costs and improve access to electrical energy.
Sharckles: Have you identified potential customers for your transformers?
Prof. Bentil: We are still in the discussion phase with our partners, including Karpowership Company Ghana Limited and ECG, who are already engaged with our university. We plan to engage major electrical energy companies like VRA and the Aboadze Thermal plant in stakeholder meetings once our preparations are complete. The goal is to gain their support and involvement in the project and to encourage other users to buy the product.
Sharckles: In your report, you should consider the project's viability and determine the market size.
Prof. Bentil: Noted, We will certainly consider the project's viability and assess the market size.
Sharckles: Have you learned how long it took the Zimbabwean universities to establish their transformer manufacturing capabilities?
Prof. Bentil: Unfortunately, I do not have that information.
Mr. Kenneth Boateng, the Faculty Officer for Engineering at TTU, also shared his thoughts.
Kenneth: The two Zimbabwean universities were able to move quickly on this project because the government supported them financially. They presented their budget to the Ministry of Education, and within three days, they received one million dollars to establish their innovation centers. Government support played a key role in their success.
Sharckles: So, government backing is a crucial factor for the success of such projects?
Kenneth: Yes, government support is essential, as it provides the necessary funding and resources to accelerate the project. They were able to move quickly because of the financial backing from the government.
Sharckles: How can we get the government to support such initiatives?
Prof. Bentil: Our plan is to complete all the necessary documentation for this project and then have our Vice Chancellor present it to the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Education. We are under the Ministry of Education, so that would be the logical route.
NOTE: We have written to the Vice Chancellor for an interview to ascertain information on the role his office is playing in facilitating Government support ahead of time.
On the question of the material science of a transformer, Pro. Bentil had this to say "Regrettably, my Vice Dean, who is well-versed in electrical engineering, is currently unavailable. However, we can certainly arrange for him to provide you with comprehensive details on the discussions, as this falls within his area of expertise."
Prof. Bentil's office is on the same floor as that of Dr. Payne, a very intelligent young electrical engineer, the Vice Dean.
Dr. Payne's story is next.
FACT: In the changed post-COVID-19 business landscape, the global market for Distribution Transformers estimated at US$18.1 Billion in the year 2022, is projected to reach a revised size of US$27.8 Billion by 2030.