World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough (right) presenting the book to Higher Education and Highways Ministry Secretary D. C. Dissanayake
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana
The World Bank will be providing Sri Lanka US$ 85 million in funding to improve the country’s Research and Development (R&D) due to the lack of external funding into the field.
“We will be providing US$ 75 million for higher education through the country partnership framework,” World Bank Sri Lanka Lead Education Specialist Dr. Harsha Aturupane said recently at the launch of ‘Promoting University-Industry Collaboration in Sri Lanka’ book launch held in Colombo, this week.
He added that US$ 10 million will also be granted to the government over 3 years to provide PhD scholarships in foreign universities for deserving candidates.
Dr. Athurupane said the World Bank had previously given US$ 800,000 in funding for R&D, which had not been an adequate boost.
According to the World Bank studies published in the book, just 49.7 percent of academia in Sri Lanka had received external funding for their research in 2015, compared to 65.2 percent in 2007, showing that more research is being done in academic isolation with university funding, than before.
Sri Lanka had spent just 1.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D according to 2010 statistics, which is significantly low compared to the rest of Asia.
“The country’s GDP is growing faster than research funding,” World Bank Senior Education Specialist Kurt Larsen, who was a co-author of the book added.
He noted that most of the country’s research is done in the public sector, such as universities, and that the private sector has not shown much interest in investing in R&D, though a slow improvement has been witnessed of late. Of the 49.7 percent of academics who received external R&D funding, 57.3 percent had received funding from private industries in 2015, compared to 40 percent in 2007, and public corporations had funded 35.4 percent of the academics in 2015, compared to 27 percent in 2007.
Private foundations have increased their participation in funding academics during this period, while international agencies and non-governmental organizations have witnessed decreased frequencies of funding. Larsen noted that Sri Lankan researchers do not have an entrepreneurial knack, compared to their contemporaries in universities in the US, Korea, China, Israel, etc.
“Many of these universities are good at transferring research into patents and deriving revenue,”
He added that Sri Lankan academics should stop being isolated, and interact, in order to research areas which can create patents and commercial products, but also noted that there’s a lack of a critical mass in the number of private companies and researchers to create momentum. University Grants Commission Quality Assurance and Accreditation Council Director Professor Deepthi Bandara, who is another co-author of the book, noted that the government manifesto calls for the promotion of University-Industry Partnerships. Researchers noted that institutes such as SLINTEC and Moratuwa University have taken considerable steps towards creating intellectual property, spin-off companies and commercial applications of research, while the Colombo University is now starting to move towards this direction.(CW)