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The private two-year-old Arab Science and Technology Foundation — which held its first international conference last week in the United Arab Emirates — hopes to award its first research grants next year.

The foundation is expecting a contribution of almost $20 million from a private donor within the next few months, according to Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University and one of the conference leaders.

The foundation currently has about about $1 million in cash, but El-Baz says it needs at least $10 million before it can begin to make grants.