CAIRO: Nahdet El Mahrousa NGO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Industrial Modernization Center (IMC) late October to expand the Young Innovators’ Awards program to all 22 national universities in Egypt.
The program seeks to promote the culture of research and development (R&D) among engineering graduating seniors in national universities by sponsoring their graduation projects with LE 4,000. In most cases, this covers the cost of developing the project prototype or “proof of concept.
This sponsorship is complemented with a lecture series on R&D delivered by top-notch scientists and professionals in the field.
Nahdet El Mahrousa began developing this program four years ago after realizing how the inadequate training of scientists in Egyptian institutions can ultimately lead to substandard levels of science production.
“There is a huge gap between production and consumerism in Egypt, said Loay El Shawarby, the project’s team leader, “we believe that nurturing the R&D know-how can contribute to bridging this gap.
“We decided to focus on university students because we wanted them to have a more optimistic outlook for the future, Al Shawarby added, “We try to make them understand that their homegrown innovative projects can actually play a role in lifting the national economy.
The program started in Cairo University and over the last three years has expanded namely Alexandria, Ain Shams, Mansoura, El Minya and Al Azhar universities.
When the project first started, it relied solely on individual funding. Today there are several corporate sponsors participating including Procter & Gamble, British Gas, Mobinil, Adcom Ericsson, Microsoft and Challenger Limited.
“Corporate funding has definitely helped us increase the number of awards as well as build our capacity, Al Shawarby said, “because 20 percent of these funds go to the NGO in order to further develop our infrastructure and expand the program.
Some of the corporate partners, such as Procter & Gamble, allocate their funding to projects that address their own R&D issues. On the other hand, British Gas, for example, directs its funds to any project, regardless of the issue it is addressing.
The new MoU with the IMC helped Nahdet El Mahrousa expand the program to all 22 national universities.
“There was an overlap between our plans to expand the program and the agenda of the IMC for enhancing R&D, Al Shawarby added, “Their contribution saved us a few years.
Through this MoU, the IMC is sponsoring 110 additional awards for graduating seniors, in addition to another 110 with the value of LE 2,000 open for students of any class. The IMC is also sponsoring 35 awards for postgraduate studies.
The team working on this project, which is now comprised of three dedicated young people, is currently expanding to cope with the growth of the program. They have a vision of expanding the program to include internship and scholarship opportunities in reputable international corporations and research institutes.
“Unfortunately, the know-how of R&D here is very limited, said Al Shawarby, “We are lucky to have worked with some of the pioneers of the field here who have been part of our lecture series. If we want to make a real change in this field, we have to send potential young scientists to Europe where they can truly learn what R&D is all about.
In the meantime, some of the participants in the project have taken control of their own learning paths. “Three ladies in our team got hired in multinational companies in the communications industry, said Ayman Shalaby, one of the participants in the program.
“Moreover, I got a scholarship to pursue my Masters’ degree at the University of Toronto thanks to the experience I gained while working on my project.