The next decade (2007-2016) will be Egypt's decade of science and technology, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has declared, in a move that lends political support to the country's plans to expand its scientific and technological capabilities.
Speaking at the country's 2006 Science Day ceremony on 20 December, Mubarak called on the government to enhance cooperation with its international partners in fields such as genetic engineering, new and renewable energy, space science, information technology and pharmaceutical research.
He called for increased research appropriations in the new budget and acceleration in establishing the fund of sciences and technological development as an independent body.
And Mubarak promised the government will seek to improve the level of science education by updating educational curricula in mathematics and advanced science.
Hassan Abdel Aal Moawad, professor of microbial biotechnology at Cairo's National Research Center, welcomed the news, saying this provided political backing for initiatives that will, if supported financially and implemented properly, strengthen Egypt's scientific and technological capabilities in many fields, and could also influence the behaviour of neighbouring countries.
He told SciDev.Net, "Egypt's science initiatives will have impact not only on Egypt but also on Arab and Islamic countries as well as the African continent. It provides a model to follow, especially with 2007 proposed as the launching year for science in Africa." (see 'Ministers propose 2007 as 'year of science' in Africa')
According to Hany Mahfouz Helal, minister of higher education and scientific research, Egypt will start by implementing a plan for science cooperation signed with Germany on 11 December. The two countries will promote scientific cooperation in the fields of environment, natural resources, water, irrigation, renewable energies (wind-power and hydropower); industrial environmental protection and thermal power stations; waste management and food industries.
Earlier this month (16 December), a science partnership agreement was also signed with India to promote south-south knowledge transfer, expert exchange and joint training programmes and research projects.
Helal also announced a human capacity building initiative in science and technology, which will provide fellowships for Egyptian scientists to conduct research in international research centres.