Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs, Prof Tissa Vitarana told the 16th Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) held in Geneva last week, that Sri Lanka which is now a middle income country expects to increase the contribution of high tech value added exports to the national economy from the present 1.5% to 10% by 2016 through the implementation of the National strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation.
Revealing details of the national strategy he mentioned that in line with the target of doubling its per capita GDP to USD 4000 by 2016, the strategy is aimed at achieving effective social economic development, through research directed on national needs, use of advanced technologies and building a culture of techno – entrepreneurship between the public & private sector partnership.
Prof. Vitarana made this observation when he participated in the Ministerial Roundtable on “Harnessing Science and Technology to address development challenges” organized at the 16th Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) held on 3rd June 2013 in Geneva. The Roundtable which focused on how science, technology and innovation could promote inclusive and sustainable development in countries, provided a forum for the policy makers to exchange experiences, best practices and to discuss challenges faced at national level.
The Minister shared with the audience how National Nanotechnology Initiatives (NNI) and the Vidathprogramme has increased its contribution to the Gross Expenditure on Research & Development (GERD) from 10% to over 30 % during the last 6 years through technology transfer in the rural micro and SME sectors. He also drew the attention of the international community on STI related challenges faced by Sri Lanka and developing countries and urged assistance in facilitating brain grain, access to scientific literature and data as a global policy, providing STI related technical assistance targeted specifically for national needs and further requested donor community and development partners to consider STI sector as an essential element for development when funding is considered.
The Ministerial Round Table was moderated by Dr. Shirley Malcom, Head of the Directorate of Education and Human Resources American Association for the Advancement of Science. The high level panelists comprised of Ministers , Vice Ministers and advisors from Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nigeria, Philippine Sri Lanka, Swaziland, USA & Zimbabwe.
The Sri Lanka delegation to the sessions led by the Minister, included Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, Chairman, Institute of Industry and Technology Prof Vijaya Kumar, and Chairperson National Science Foundation / Science Advisor & Sector Specialist of the Office of the Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs Prof Sirimali Fernando, and Mrs Lakmini Mendis , Minister Counsellor of the Geneva Mission.
The Commission which provides the General Assembly and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues, at the annual session held from 3 – 7 June 2013, considered two priority themes during the sessions, the Science and Technology (S&T) theme being on "Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Cities and Peri-Urban Communities while the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) theme was on internet Broadband for an Inclusive Digital Society. The Sessions also assessed progress on the implementation of and follow up to the outcomes of WSIS, which is part of CSTD's mandate.
The Draft Resolution on the S&T theme adopted by the Commission at the Session was facilitated by the Sri Lankan delegate Prof Vijaya Kumar, Chairman Industrial Technology Institute in the Commission. It dealt with utilizing S&T to address problems arising from rapid urbanization particularly in developing countries.
Sri Lanka’s contribution to the session was highly commended by the 43 Member countries, Observer States, Intergovernmental organizations, UN bodies, Specialized Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations in consultative status with the ECOSOC.
Sri Lanka Mission
The statement made by Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs, Sri Lanka
at the Ministerial Roundtable on “Harnessing S&T to address Development challenges”
Ladies and gentleman,
I take this opportunity to thank the Secretary General of UNCTAD and the Secretariat of the CSTD for inviting me to this important ministerial roundtable.
The Government of Sri Lanka, in 2010 set a target to double its per capita GDP to 4000 US $ by 2016.
In this backdrop, I am happy to report that Sri Lanka now has a National Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation, developed as an indigenous effort based on the S&T policy adopted when I was the Minister of Science and Technology. The strategy has a clear focus on locally harnessing Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for our socio-economic development in a coordinated manner,with the emphasis on maximizing value addition to raw materials through the use of advanced technology. Through this we hope to increase our high tech value added exports which directly contribute to our economy, from the present 1.5% to 10% by 2016. It is very much aligned to the theme of this ministerial roundtable meeting.
The Strategy focuses on harnessing STI through directed research towards national needs, maximum appropriate use of advanced technologies and building a culture of techno-entrepreneurship. A close focused partnership between industry and STI is an essential part of the strategy for effective socio-economic development. This needs to be complemented by enhancing the capacity of the national research and innovation system together with improving the scientific literacy of our people and entrenching sustainability principles in all spheres of our STI activities. You would agree that no single line ministry in a government can achieve these goals as the stakeholders and infrastructure are scattered and disjointed. The key to successful implementation of our National STI strategytherefore is working together in a coordinated manner. The stakeholders from the public and the private sectors should come together to co-identify, co-plan and co produce the activities that are identified in the Strategy.
In recognition of this need the Government of Sri Lanka has established a dedicated Coordinating Secretariat for Science Technology and Innovation (COSTI) under my purview as the Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs. The COSTI will also function as the Secretariat for the Inter-Ministerial Council for Science, Technology and Innovation. The COSTI will work with both public and private sectors and direct STI activities on three pillars; economic development (eg harnessing natural resources through STI), social justice (such as food, water and energy security etc.) and environmental quality ( such as a future earth programme and resilience to climate change).
Appreciation of the benefits of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and the Vidatha programme, which has transferred technology to rural micro and SME sectors, has led to an increase in the private sector contribution to GERD (Gross Expenditure on R&D) from less than 10% to over 30% during the last 6 years. Encouraged by this the government at the last Budget offered a 300% tax relief for R&D carried out by enterprises.
Despite the global economic downturn the success of this national effort can be accelerated and sustained by the necessary support being provided by international organizations like the CSTD and UNESCO. Four main areas that need to be considered are:
1. Facilitating brain gain for countries like Sri Lanka
2. Promotion of open access to scientific literature and data as a global policy
3. Facilitating provision of technical assistance and training for STI personnel specific to national needs of less industrialized countries
4. Encouraging the development partners and donor community to regard STI as a sector essential for development and skilled jobs creation in their funding support for less industrialized countries.