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[CAIRO] Egypt is to establish a network of universities and research centres that will collaborate with the country's planned US$2 billion science city, which is scheduled to open its doors to students in September 2012.

The network was announced during celebrations to mark the official opening of the Zewail City of Science and Technology — named after Egyptian-born Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, professor at the California Institute of Technology, United States — earlier this month (2 November).

Motaz Khorshid, minister of higher education and scientific research, told SciDev.Net that the Zewail City network will link with research centres affiliated with both his ministry and other ministries. The aim of the network is to be "the locomotive of economic and social development in Egypt", he said.

Zewail said during the ceremony that such a network would link the scientific work of researchers across the country and support the transfer and accumulation of knowledge.

Maged Al-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ARST), said his institution hosts many talented researchers that Zewail City could benefit from.

He added that the National Research Center, the Nanotechnology Research Center at Cairo University, the Urology and Nephrology Center at Mansoura University (which is working on stem cell research), and the Aswan Heart Center would be among the first to join the network, as they fit the work that the science city will prioritise.

Details of the network have yet to be agreed.

The science city will include a university, a graduate research institution, a technology park to develop students' innovations and a unit to link science with industry.  

"Zewail City will play an active role in the renaissance of Egyptian scientific research," said Khorshid.

The city is a non-profit, national project that was approved by the government in May this year. Ahmed Zewail, who is also the project's chairman, is running a fundraising campaign for it; so far, Egyptians in and out of the country have made donations ranging from US$2 to US$40 million.