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The Nepal government has announced a national science laboratory to carry out advanced research on biofuel, solar and renewable energy, biotechnology, the environment and biodiversity.

The establishment of the National Research Laboratory was announced this month (6 December) as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

NAST will oversee the laboratory, due to open in the beginning of 2010. The government will provide around 70 million Nepali rupees (around US$1.1 million) to build the laboratory, with 20 million Nepali rupees (around US$345,000) of funding already in place.

"Science and technology will be the basis of the economic development of the nation. However, we are behind in science and technology in the global context. Therefore, we need new ideas for the development of the nation through science and technology," said Nepali prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala at the announcement ceremony.

He added that the government was looking into ways to increase investment in science and technology.

Currently, NAST has one laboratory, which lacks adequate facilities for research on biotechnology, biofuels and renewable energy, says Hom Nath Bhattarai, vice-chancellor of NAST.

"The new laboratory will be a well-equipped modern laboratory. But to give a life to it, we need modern equipments, qualified scientific manpower and international collaboration in knowledge sharing," says Bhattarai

Bhattarai adds that such a research centre might ultimately help attract Nepali scientists working abroad to return to the nation.

Along with the laboratory, the government also announced the establishment of a Nepali science learning centre, to provide hands-on opportunities for the public to understand scientific principles, technological applications and the social implications of science and technology.

The centre will be established with technical and financial support from the Indian government and will open in mid-2010.