Egypt sets a new course for its scientific efforts

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[CAIRO] A year after the revolution, Egypt is drawing up a new strategy for promoting scientific research, aiming to harness the knowledge of its scientific diaspora, ease the commercialisation of research results, and protect technology imported from abroad.

The science ministry is consulting on the strategy with researchers both within and outside Egypt, and with a number of developed and developing countries, science minister Nadia Zakhari said at a press conference this month (5 February).

"The new strategy will stress the need for marketing scientific research, and transfer its findings to final products, [in a way to support] the comprehensive and sustainable development in Egypt," said Zakhari.

She told SciDev.Net that the new strategy, expected to be finished in three months, will be expressed in a law and will work to solve the "chronic problems afflicting Egypt, especially the issues of food, energy, health and education".

Zakhari added the new law would be presented to parliament "within six months at most".

Maged El-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), which is the national umbrella for planning scientific research in Egypt, told SciDev.Net that the law will support links with the private sector by allowing research centres and universities to establish private companies to translate research findings into products.

"These companies will facilitate the commercialisation of patents to secure funds and profits that will boost  scientific research, and the development of the economy," he said.

El-Sherbiny said the new law is also expected to cover the protection of intellectual property on technology transferred into the country.

"Our intellectual property laws are fragile and don’t provide newly transferred technologies with adequate protection against imitation," he said.

Galal Nawwar, head of the chemical industries division at the National Research Centre, said the new law "has to protect the rights" of Egyptian as well as foreign scientists wishing to commercialise their research.  

Zakhari said that the involvement of Egyptian scientists, both at home and abroad, in drafting the strategy has been an important area of cooperation between researchers and policymakers.

ASRT is also developing a more efficient way to implement the Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals programme, launched in 2006 to reverse Egypt’s brain drain and engage its expatriate scientists.

Mahmoud M. Sakr, vice president of ASRT, said they were seeking grants to support this programme and would work with cultural consultants in embassies to reach out to Egyptian researchers abroad.