[CAIRO] Egypt has established a US$20 million fund to support the launch of a new university — known as the Nile University — for postgraduate technological studies. It will focus on specialist subjects including information and communication technologies (ICTs), manufacturing and product development, desert and environmental science, biotechnology, and petrochemical technology.
The fund will cover the initial phase of the project, while the remainder of its estimated cost of US$96 million is being sought from public-private partnerships, according to Ayman Mohammed Soliman, director of the Nile University Project.
Construction of the university has begun in El Sheikh Zayed City, 20 minutes from the centre of Cairo. It will host its first on-campus academic programmes — open to students from across the Arab world — in September 2006, and is intended to produce future policy makers, technologists, entrepreneurs and industrialists for the Middle East region. Some educational programmes will begin in November 2004 at a temporary location elsewhere.
Soliman told SciDev.Net that the university is intended to promote the skills needed for innovation and entrepreneurship, and will also carry out advanced research in the disciplines that it covers. Specialist centres will promote the patenting and marketing of intellectual property developed at the university, and help students to set up companies by facilitating access to venture capital funds, he added.
According to Soliman, the Nile University is seeking to collaborate with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States and Imperial College in London, in order to attain a world-class level of teaching and research. He says that it has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the IESE Business School in Barcelona.
Atef Ebeid, Egypt's prime minister, revealed details of the government's funding for the university last month. At the same time, he also announced two other initiatives aimed at boosting the role of ICTs in Egypt's economic growth and scientific development.
The first, a 'technology development fund', is intended to promote close collaboration between industry and research and development institutions, including universities, said Ebeid. The aims, he added, are "to convert concepts into products, and enable them to reach the market," as well as "to help lay the foundations for an industry based on modern science and technology."
The technology development fund has been given an initial US$8 million of capital, and is authorised to grow to five times that amount. During its first seven years, the fund will support innovative and commercially-viable ICT projects that serve the industrial, agricultural, and medical sectors and can generate intellectual property assets.
There will also be a fund to support research projects that use or develop ICTs, said Ebeid.