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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Expat Lankan professionals ideal boost for nanotechnology

Sunday Observer: 08/10/2006" by Gamini Warushamana

New opportunities are emerging with the latest breakthrough in science, Nanotechnology, for the country's economy and corporate sector, said Chairman of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Prof. Sirimali Fernando.

"We have to act today to grab the maximum benefits from Nanotechnology as two years may be too late since, today, technology is advancing rapidly and countries are grabbing them quickly.

After the industrial revolution in the 18th century it took decades to transform technological innovation to the next stage. But today the phase has shortened and technology is evolving quickly, Prof. Fernando said.

"On many occasions in the past we missed the opportunities and failed to get the benefits from technological revolutions in electronics, biotechnology and IT. We are only consumers of these technologies but we had the potential of being active leaders.

Today even third world countries can be leaders or at least equal competitors in technological advancement and get economic gains. India gains from IT and it has become a leader in IT technology. Cuba is another example and the country gains from bio technology and today it has become a leader in bio technology.

We can see vast scope in nanotechnology in the future and there are enormous economic benefits," she said.

NSF has appointed an international consultation panel on Nanotechnology. Prominent Sri Lankan scientists who are at the top of international nano research institutions have been appointed to the panel.

The panel comprises of Prof. Ravi Silva, University of Surrey (and a member of the five member task force who advice the UK government on nanotechnology), Prof. Gihan Amaratunge of the University of Cambridge, Prof. Kumar Wickramasinghe (who is working for the IBM and the head of the nanotechnology division, USA) and Prof. A. P. de Silva of University of Belfast.

Prof. Fernando's view is that investment to the sector should come from the government and the corporate private sector. For the advancement of the nanotechnology the country needs huge investment and human capital. NSF proposes Rs. 1 billion government investment per year and contribution from industrial sector through increasing their R&D expenditure. We can't expect FDI or donor assistance in the initial stage of the technology, she said.

Nanotechnology is already used by some apparel manufacturers in Sri Lanka.

NSF has already gathered information about expatriate Sri Lankan experts in the field. Prof. Fernando said that human resources is the most important part and we have people with a fine calibre and they are ready to return to the country if we provide them with similar living conditions.

So we have to pay higher salaries and government should arrange other facilities which they may need.

Attracting expatriate professionals back is essential to develop a country and many countries such as Korea, India and China did exactly that, at most decisive turning points of their economies.

Some of these Sri Lankans have their own patented innovations and the country will benefit by foreign income flows from them, she said.

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