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  • Survey to help spur innovation in Islamic countries

[CAIRO] A study launched this month (1 September) aims to make policymakers in the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) more aware of science's role in development by assessing the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in their countries.

Officials from COMSTECH (the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation) hope that the study will collect information directly from scientists on factors affecting academic entrepreneurship and help spur OIC countries into action in both investment in research and development (R&D) and in promoting the commercialisation of research.

The scientific research sector in some OIC countries has undergone something of a reawakening, say the officials, but there remains too little support for the sector and states lag behind in putting the results of scientific research into practice.

"COMSTECH's role in the promotion of science, technology and innovation has been limited due to OIC states significantly underestimating the importance of science and technology as a tool for social and economic development, reflected in their very low allocation for R&D budgets," T. K. Naim, a COMSTECH consultant, told SciDev.Net.

The COMSTECH Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research and Training and the COMSTECH Virtual Incubator for Science-based Business are collecting the information for the study, and are due to finish by April 2013.

Follow-up workshops will be organised at COMSTECH to disseminate the results among OIC member states, and to allow for discussion and the development of policy recommendations.  

"Academic entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly important as knowledge and innovation take centre stage in the present-day knowledge economy. OIC countries are not exceptions to this trend," said Nikolaos Tzokas, a marketing professor at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, who is conducting the COMSTECH survey.

Naim listed Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as countries where efforts have been made to increase R&D budgets and promote higher education. The numbers of international publications from these countries have risen and this trend is expected to continue.

Naim added that because the entrepreneurship data will be collected directly from local scientists, the results should carry more weight for policymakers.  

Tzokas said: "Depending on response rates in each participating country, the study will be able to make both OIC-wide recommendations and country-specific ones. The study is expected to deliver a benchmarking tool to be used by scientists and institutions wishing to enhance academic entrepreneurship."

Tarek Adnan, head of scientific activities at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt, said he found COMSTECH's previous workshops "very useful".

He added that there was a need for a commercialisation strategy for research, as well as a database for all researchers in OIC countries working on a specific subject.

Link to survey