Sri Lanka needs to promote applied research if we are to keep up with global trends _ Susil Premajayantha

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By Rose Kenny

  The population in Sri Lanka is around 22 million and rightfully there should be at least 22,000 researchers if we are to keep up with world innovation advancements. However, there are only around 5200 researchers in the country and of them too around 2000 are engaged in applied research and all the others are engaged in fundamental research. The reason is that in our country the researchers do not have the resources to carry out advanced research. Therefore, the government needs to invest in such research projects in order to encourage and promote local innovators, said Opposition Lawmaker Susil Premajayantha in parliament yesterday, joining the debate on the National Innovation Agency Bill.

Expressing his views in parliament yesterday during the presentation of the National Innovation Agency Bill, he noted that this bill has six objectives. “We need to bridge the trade gap between the import and exports and reduce the account balance, thus strengthening the rupee. The institution for this purpose currently is the Commission for Innovators. But, this commission only has a limited set of responsibilities. Although this Commission was sufficient in 1979, with today’s developments in innovation, the need for a stronger body has arisen. Hence, this Bill has been presented to fulfil that requirement.”

However, he noted that the biggest drawback for new innovators is the lack of research facilities. “As far as I know the annual amount spent annually for new innovations is around 0.11 percent of our GDP. In other countries which have introduced new innovations and are ahead of us have at least allocated 2 percent of their GDP for new innovations. In the case of the US and other Western countries, it is the private sector that invests in the innovation sector for research facilities. The reason being that according to the nature of their trade, unless new innovations are found it would be impossible for them to progress. Therefore, all private companies are committed to funding research and development in order to stay on top.”

Premajayantha  noted that in Sri Lanka the private sector is not strong enough to follow the example of the western countries. Hence, until the private sector is developed to that standard, the government has no choice but to fund and invest in such research facilities.

According to Premajantha, during the Rajapaksa regime, the SLIT institution was established in Pitipana for research on Nano technology. “Now the second stage has also commenced. At that time Nano technology was not widespread. There we did many research projects such as how to use cinnamon for the control of blood sugar and also Nano fertiliser production. Today there are 28 young people who have qualified in this field at that facility. The Rajapaksa regime recognised the importance of this institution at the time,” he said.

He pointed out that Stem Education is being pursued globally, but Sri Lanka has not even thought about it. “