Professor Chidi Oguamanam awarded University Research Chair in Sustainable Bio-Innovation, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Global Knowledge Governance

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Common Law Section

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Chidi Oguamanam, images of cows, a lake, farming, medical test
The terms “Indigenous knowledge” and “traditional knowledge” loosely refer to the know-how, practices and experiences developed and sustained by a community and transmitted across generations, often constituting important aspects of that community’s cultural and spiritual identity. In the last several decades, progress toward taking Indigenous knowledge seriously has been, in a word, slow.

The predatory tendencies of the Western-grown patent system, for example, have traditionally paid little attention to Indigenous knowledge. But things are changing. Professor Chidi Oguamanam has positioned himself as a leading voice in the effort to stop the harmful appropriation Indigenous knowledge, and replace decades-old practices with new, sustainable systems that can equitably bring Indigenous knowledge to the world.

Professor Oguamanam has been awarded the University Research Chair (URC) in Sustainable Bio-Innovation, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Global Knowledge Governance. Under the auspices of this new Chair, Professor Oguamanam’s goal is to advance just societies through the equitable participation of the world’s Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in global knowledge production and in the resulting benefits. Above all, he seeks an answer to the following question: How can global knowledge governance achieve equity for IPLCs and their knowledge production?

To answer this question, Professor Oguamanam will look at global knowledge governance across the multiple but interrelated sites of sustainability, agriculture, food security, environment, biodiversity conservation, climate change, health, medicines, arts, and other epistemic traditions in which the diverse forms of informal knowledge production practices of the world’s IPLCs intersect with formal science and technology-driven innovation. While transformations in science and technology can create new challenges surrounding the appropriation of the knowledge of IPLCs, they also have the capacity to empower Indigenous knowledge custodians to equitably participate and benefit in the emergent global knowledge economy. Professor Oguamanam’s URC research will make an original contribution to repositioning Indigenous knowledge custodians from old forms of knowledge governance to new models that are more well suited to the technological advancements of the 21st Century.

Professor Oguamanam is a leading scholar in the area of intellectual propriety and Indigenous knowledge. The exceptional interdisciplinarity of his research has allowed him to pursue complex issues that cut across environmental law, biotechnology, IP rights, food security, health law, and ethics. His work has also been widely recognized for its strong theory-to-practice dimensions. Drawing upon his roots within Indigenous African heritage, Professor Oguamanam is able to link the experiences of African cultural communities with their Indigenous counterparts in Canada and globally and bring a deep understanding of the intricacies embedded in questions that examine local, traditional and Indigenous knowledges in the context of intellectual property, innovation and knowledge governance.

Professor Oguamanam heads ABS-Canada; he is a co-founder and co-prinicipal investigator (alongside Professor Jeremy de Beer) and theme leader on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the SSHRC/IDRC-supported Open Africa Innovation Research (Open AIR) partnership. He was named to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada in 2016, and his outstanding leadership in research training has been acknowledged over the years by three different teaching and graduate supervision awards. 

University Research Chairs are given to the University of Ottawa’s top researchers in recognition of their outstanding and continuous accomplishments in research as well as the training of students.

Congratulations to Professor Oguamanam on this well-deserved achievement!