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[CAIRO] Egypt plans to set up technology transfer and innovation centres (TTICs) to promote technology-based industrial development.

The TTICs are intended to help businesses improve quality and competitiveness by aiding their adoption of new technologies and by creating conditions that promote innovation. They will also test products, help Egyptian companies find strategic partners, and provide professional training and development.

The Egyptian Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade's industrial modernisation council (IMC) approved the plans last month.

According to Selim Al-Talatli, who sits on the IMC advisory board and is executive director of Cairo’s industrial modernisation centre, the TTICs will provide grants to small and medium-scale enterprises for product innovation. The funding will come from the Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade and international funding organisations.

The centres will increase access to research and development by producing a directory of business-related information about technologies available worldwide, identifying those suited to local conditions. The TTICs will then mediate with companies overseas that own relevant technologies with the aim of transferring them to local companies under licence.

Egypt passed a comprehensive intellectual property rights (IPR) law in late May 2002, designed to bring Egypt's legislation into compliance with the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

However, the IPR law includes a number of items inconsistent with the TRIPS agreement's requirements regarding granting of compulsory licenses for patents. Thus, it deters transfer of technology and investment from abroad as international technology providers feel that they cannot protect their rights over products and processes in Egypt.

Al-Talatli says the TTICs will therefore help local companies acquire new technologies from abroad and to protect their own innovations under Egypt's developing IPR system. The centres will raise awareness of intellectual property rights (IPR) issues among policymakers and the industrial development community. To start this process, the IMC will launch an IPR help desk, providing information and guidance by the end of 2004.

Al-Talatli, told SciDev.Net the TTICs would focus on priority sectors such as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, engineering, information technology and green products

The centres will initially operate as public-private partnerships but will gradually switch to total private ownership. The IMC is conducting an assessment to decide how many TTICs will be established and where they will be, and will announce its findings in the first half of 2005.