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[CAIRO] Egypt has agreed to a series of scientific and technological reforms under a European Union (EU) initiative to foster deeper political and economic harmony with its neighbours. 

The reforms were agreed by the EU-Egypt Association Council this week (6 March) as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

The European Commission has approved around US$733 million to help Egypt implement the ENP reforms from 2007–2010, although sources in Egypt told SciDev.Net that the allocation for the science and technology reforms has not yet been decided.

Planned activities include development of a 'patent culture' in technology parks and universities, which will be organised by intellectual property offices, as well as the introduction of a doctoral level programme in intellectual property law.

Egyptian scientists' access to European scientific databases and their participation in European research groups and international scientific debates and fora will be improved.

In a bid to promote technology-based industry, the reforms call for better interaction mechanisms between research and industry, and the creation of regional 'technopoles' — towns with teaching and research facilities which can support the development of hi-tech industries.

In addition, scholarships will be offered for Egyptian students to attend European universities, broader links between EU and Egyptian scientific institutions will be established, contacts between academics will be improved and Egypt will be eligible for ENP funds to encourage cross-border co-operation and sustainable development.

Egypt will also increase its collaboration with the EU in common energy strategies, nuclear safety, information technology, education, agriculture and fisheries, and environmental issues, such cleaning up pollution in the Mediterranean.

The council established a new expert-level sub-committee to make sure that the reforms are implemented and take stock of progress made. 

Hassan Moawad Abdel Al, former president of Alexandria's Mubarak City for Scientific Research and Technology Applications, told SciDev.Net that the reforms would not only build Egypt's scientific capacity, but also strengthen science capabilities in other Arab and African countries.