CAIRO: The European Union and the Egyptian government signed two agreements worth LE 135 million supporting Egypt’s Research, Development and Innovation initiatives on Monday, at the JW Marriot Mirage City.
The agreement was signed during the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research and was attended by ministers and officials from 37 European and Mediterranean countries, including Israel.
The first grant is worth 11 million euros (LE 85 million). It will finance research and development in areas where Egypt can contribute to the European Research Area by encouraging scientific links and exchanges.
Egypt is the second country in the region, after Israel, to sign such an agreement.
At the same time, another EU grant of 6.5 million euros (LE 50 million) will be put towards financing competitive innovative projects. The agreements are meant to transform Egypt into a knowledge-based economy.
The agreements were signed between Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Hany Helal, Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Aboul Naga, and European Commission representatives.
Aboul Naga said the grants would be a significant step towards “lessening the gap between Egypt and other countries of the world.
German Minister of Education and Research Annette Shavan responded to questions regarding possible cooperation with Israel by suggesting that “science and technology are reasonable tools to bridge gaps between countries.
Minister Helal, in a private meeting, told the Egyptian press that countries and universities are free to choose their partners amongst the Euro-Mediterranean countries participating. He emphasized the critical nature of international cooperation in research and praised such conferences for their networking opportunities, inspiring bilateral and multilateral collaboration opportunities.
Although Helal did not specify how the grant money would be distributed, he said the money would be focused on those fields which were of interest to both Egypt and the EU and would have to be demand-driven.
He told The Daily Star Egypt that there were plans to increase researchers’ salaries such that they have the potential to make “more than the highest salary in Egypt.
While he rejected the term “brain-drain, he explained that the new term being used is “brain-circulation, as a “brain is a brain wherever [it] is working. He suggested expanded opportunities for Egyptian expatriates, as well as increasing strategic national projects.
The conclusion of the conference saw participants adopting a declaration entitled “Towards the Creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area. The agreement delineates guidelines for future cooperation among all Euro-Mediterranean countries and is a continuation of the five-year work program agreed on at the 2005 Barcelona Summit.
Included in the declaration is commitment towards creating a Euro-Mediterranean Education Area that would promote a Euro-Med university forum, information and communication technologies, and greater academic exchange, among other issues. The research area would also be consolidated through modernization and development of policies, infrastructure, and human capital.
German DAAD (a German academic exchange service) and Egypt signed an independent agreement to establish a jointly financed scholarship.