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The Egyptian government and IBM Research will join forces to establish the first North African nanotechnology research centre in Cairo, beginning January 2009.

Egypt's Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) and Science and Technological Development Fund (STDF) signed the three-year partnership agreement with IBM on 18 September. Joint investments will be in the region of US$30 million.

Hany Helal, Egypt's minister of higher education and state minister of scientific research, said in a press release that the IBM deal was important for the implementation of Egypt's science and technology strategy, and reflected a commitment to investing in the development of "highly-skilled, capable young people".

Partners in the centre, Cairo University, Nile University and IBM, will collaborate in the areas of simulation and modelling software, alternative energy sources (thin film silicon photovoltaics) and energy recovery for desalination.

Mohamed Magdi Hassan Oweda at ITIDA's CEO office told SciDev.Net, "The nanotechnology research centre will surely affect the ongoing efforts exerted by Egypt to promote the cycle of research and development, and consequently, a knowledge-based economy."

The centre is the second of its kind to be established in the Arab world by IBM, following a similar announcement in Saudi Arabia in February this year. (See Saudi Arabia boosts nanotech research)

Ahmed Asaad Ibrahim Khalil, associate professor at the National Institute of Laser Enhanced Sciences, Cairo University, welcomed the initiative, saying the Arab world "must join its nano-forces" by establishing a network of institutes and scientists to narrow the North–South nanotechnology divide.