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[HOMS, SYRIA] Syrian academics are hailing a scheme to nurture inventors a success following a string of patent applications and international prizes for their students' work.

The Science of Invention and Development (SID) Team in Syrian Universities has been running for more than a decade and aims to train Master's students and graduates on how to be inventors in their chosen fields.

The 2010 training course, attended by 100 graduates and judged by academics from Damascus University, resulted in more than 33 patent applications.

And at the 3rd International Invention Fair of the Middle East 2010, held in Kuwait in November, Syrian students won ten medals and the World Intellectual Property Organization's Best Inventor prize.

The SID team consists of four trainers, who are researchers at various institutions, and 20 student volunteers.

Nizar Freisan, a physics researcher at a private research centre and the team's founder, told SciDev.Net he is proud of the initiative.

Osama Alchiekh, one of the team's main trainers, said that the 2010 course was the eighth since the initiative began in 1997. He said that SID is a mentoring programme rather than just a training course. "The trainers work hand-in-hand with the trainees to develop their inventions, as we are all science researchers."

Fikrat Almahdi, manager of the invention office in Albaath University, said the SID team focuses on breaking the students' stereotypical thinking, which builds up from accumulating information but not using it.

"They show students methods to use their knowledge and life experience to generate new inventions," said Almahdi.

Hiba Alhelou, a SID student volunteer and a PhD student at Damascus University — who received two gold medals at the awards — said: "We are all misinformed about what invention is when we start. I always thought that to be an inventor you have to discover something like a cancer vaccine, but after I attended this six month course I became one." 

"To pass this course you have to feel committed to the idea of being an inventor. You also have to have an honest desire to learn how to do it," said Alchiekh.