The University of the South Pacific (USP) is the premier institution of higher learning for the Pacific region, uniquely placed in a region of extraordinary physical, social and economic diversity. Established in 1968, USP is one of only two universities of its type in the world. It is jointly owned by the governments of 12 member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa. The University has campuses in all member countries. The main campus, Laucala, is in Fiji. The Alafua Campus in Samoa is where the School of Agriculture and Food Technology is situated, and the Emalus Campus in Vanuatu is the location for the School of Law.
The academic units are organized into schools, colleges and centres. These include the School of Accounting, Finance and Economics (SAFE); School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS); School of Business and Management (SBM); School of Information Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Physics (STEMP); School of Law and Social Sciences (SoLaSS); School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education (SPACE); and Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE). They offer a wide range of academic programmes and courses at the pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In addition, Climate Change-related postgraduate programmes are offered by the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD). The University also offers programmes through distance and flexible learning in a variety of modes and technologies throughout USP's 14 campuses. Advanced communication technologies through USPNet are used to reach distance and flexible learning students across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
The multi-cultural nature of the staff and student body give USP an exceptional character. It is a quality institution producing degrees comparable to those awarded by universities in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Graduates from USP are found in important executive positions throughout the public and private sectors in all member countries and in numerous countries around the world. The University has set a high standard for quality in its research. Major research commitments include business management, teacher education, Pacific studies, marine studies, agriculture, science and technology.
Innovation at USP
The USP aims to provide leadership in innovation through research and educational initiatives by providing strategic direction and coordination of the University’s contribution to regional development in the Pacific. Hence, the USP intends to create an environment that is supportive of innovation by encouraging greater collaboration across both public and private sectors and with other research institutions to accelerate innovation already taking place across the University.
From 2017 – 2018, the Research Office (RO) of the USP has made considerable effort to develop the University’s very first Innovation@USP framework based on a consultation with internal and external stakeholders on the University’s proposed plan in innovation. The approach taken has been to allow stakeholders to provide feedback, supporting the USP’s commitment to maintaining ongoing engagement with people of the region in shaping the Pacific Futures.
The RO’s consultation report describes innovation as a process of transferring meaningful research knowledge that can foster sustainable development at the regional level to benefit Pacific communities. This report also points out that for research to have a regional impact in the Pacific, the focus should be on the areas of education, disaster management in the face of high sea levels, pollution, and environmental collapse. Why? Because the Pacific communities are so reliant on these resources on a daily and long-term basis. In response, the University’s inaugural Innovation@USP Framework focuses on 2 priorities areas:
- Innovation in research: Promoting the translation of research into fresh ideas, products, and services that can benefit the Pacific region.
- Innovation in education: Stimulating creativity in thinking and action in support of development opportunities as well as addressing regional challenges while searching for new solutions.
The Innovation@USP priority areas intensify the important connection between the University’s Research Strategic Theme (RST), 2019 – 2024, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in guiding the USP’s core role in producing more regional and national impactful research in the Pacific. Those RST themes are underpinned by Innovation, Empowerment, and Sustainability in the Pacific, emphasising research that goes beyond academic to offer innovative knowledge and practices that can benefit the Pacific society and its socio-cultural environments.
Pacific Regional Innovation Network (PRIN)
In 2019, the USP and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) worked in partnership to establish a facilitated innovative hub at the University’s Laucala Campus in Suva, Fiji. This is a shared working environment where people are engaged in to meet, work, network, share ideas, and collaborate to support and accelerate innovative thinking and actions. Throughout the year, the hub has engaged in stakeholders from different organisations including government, private sector, entrepreneurs, non-government, media, community, youth, women, tertiary education, development partners, international institutions, and diplomats.
The UNDP-USP Innovation Hub initial project in 2019 was then extended in 2020 to the region under the UNDP Pacific Regional Inclusive Programme; in an MOU and LOA that were signed during the Launch of the Pacific Regional Innovation Network & UN75 Building the Pacific Future We Want. PRIN is probably the first of its kind in the Pacific, seeking to grow innovative networks across the region via the University’s regional campuses. PRIN also values the key role of the government, as it has certain distinct roles for supporting and protecting creativity and innovative talents of its citizens. PRIN implementation is currently underway in 3 of the Univerity’s regional campuses that have national and impactful works in the Pacific: The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Phase 1 of PRIN involves a dialogue with national stakeholders, in each of the 3 countries, on what innovation means to local people and how to best support this at the country level. The findings from these national dialogues will form the basis for RMI, Tonga, and Vanuatu draft innovation work-plans; which are expected to be implemented during the establishment of the 3 Innovation Hubs in Phase 2.