CAIRO: The strategy for scientific research in Egypt should focus on competitiveness, added value to products and services and the application of research rather than replicating the efforts of others, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Technology, Amr Salama, said.
Speaking at a symposium at Gezira Rotary Club Monday, Salama said that the ministry’s new strategy regarding scientific research will involve creating a favorable atmosphere in Egypt for Egyptian scientists inside and outside Egypt to work. It will also depend on the assistance of Egyptian scientists abroad.
"Egypt has great potential to become a developed nation through scientific research within a few years because it enjoys a distinguished human capital of skilled researchers and infrastructure but the biggest challenge is funding," he said.
"Some research centers in Egypt produce quality work but their efforts aren’t appreciated by the society due to the lack of an adequate scientific research culture," Salama explained.
He said the ministry is working on restructuring the existing research centers, currently forming 25 percent only of the scientific research force in Egypt, so that they become affiliated directly and supervised by the ministry.
The Ministry of Scientific Research, usually a state ministry affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education, became an executive ministry for the first time during former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq’s cabinet.
"Even after they merged the two ministries in the current cabinet, I insisted on adding ‘Technology’ to its name to express the change in the concept of scientific research focusing on applicable research," Salama said.
"We want to relate scientific research directly to the society’s needs and close the gap between Egypt and other developed countries," he added.
According to official reports, the scientific research’s budget in Egypt constitutes 0.2 percent, $200 million, of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more than three quarters of which goes to salaries.
Egypt has more than 150,000 academics most of whom have doctorate degrees but only a few work in scientific research.
Salama said he started contacting Egyptian scientists abroad who showed willingness to offer assistance and said they are studying plans to implement projects like Ahmed Zuweil’s International Research Center and Farouk El-Baz’s Development Corridor.
The ministry is also initiating discussions with businessmen and investors on ways to finance scientific research to replace government funding.
Salama said that he is aiming at endorsing academic freedoms in universities without putting any constraints on creativity and various on-campus activities.
"The current Universities Law has turned academic research and promotion into a bureaucratic process and we are trying to change the system so that academic leaderships are chosen through competition rather than appointment or election," Salama said.
Salama’s plan includes doubling the number of universities in Egypt, currently 18 government-owned and 16 private universities, and opening specialized faculties and institutes in the fields of technology and social sciences.
Salama is a former minister of higher education (between 2004 and 2005) and president of Helwan University and works as a consultant at the American University in Cairo.