Welcoming Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Senior Minister for Scientific Affairs, and the delegation, who were on a five-day official visit to Brussels, Ms. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science of the European Commission, said she was pleased to have this discussion with the Minister and to enhance collaboration in the area of Science and Research with Sri Lanka.
The Commissioner told the Minister that the South Asia launch of the EU Flagship research and innovation programme- the "Horizon 2020" held in Colombo was the largest publicly funded programme for research, where excellence is the only criterion, to be eligible for a research grant. Sri Lanka belongs to the category of Non-EU Third Countries that are automatically eligible to for funding under the Horizon 2020 budget.
The Minister briefed Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, how Sri Lanka is addressing the issues related to the 27 years of conflict as well as those due to natural disasters, stressing the need for maintaining a more rapid economic growth. To achieve this, he highlighted the need to improve the quality of education with emphasis on promoting Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Sri Lanka, thereby strengthening the existing accessibility to free education and free health for all citizens.
The Minister described the challenges and deficiencies in capacity, both material and human resources, to promote STI and science education in the country. While presenting a copy of Sri Lanka’s National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Sri Lanka, Minister Vitarana said coordinating and monitoring all scientific activities with the line Ministries and private sector agencies are the prime mandate of his Office.
He explained that a Coordinating Secretariat for Science Technology and Innovation (COSTI) has been set up under his purview to facilitate this process. In this regard, high-tech facilities including in nanotechnology are being developed and COSTI is working to set up a framework to make Sri Lankan exports more competitive. The proposal by COSTI for a National Science Centre has been incorporated into the national budget and said his Ministry would welcome foreign funds and technical assistance, to make this project a success.
The Minister also said Sri Lanka would be pleased to be benefited by the Science and Research programmes of EU, where Sri Lanka could develop research capacities to facilitate economic development of the country, while ensuring social justice and environmentally sustainable growth. Referring to the traditional knowledge in indigenous medicine and the natural resources abundantly available in the country, including being a bio diversity hotspot, the Minister said “we wish to see how best we can generalise traditional knowledge for common benefit”.
The Commissioner agreed to continue the dialogue further through the office of the EU Directorate-General for Research, Innovation and Science, to identify avenues for cooperation in the areas that Sri Lanka has prioritized in its National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, in a mutually beneficial manner.