Highest financial allocation for science and
Good times ahead for scientists, researchers
Technology and Research Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.
Technology and Research Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has allocated Rs. 1,000 million from the
previous budget to set up a fund to provide a helping hand to the
scientists and researchers to conduct their research activities. The
Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said this means of the
total GDP, 5 percent has been reserved by the Government for scientific
research conducted by the Ministry. Of that five percent, two percent
has already been released. According to the Minister this is a great
victory achieved in the fields of science and technology, because no
former Government had made such a massive financial allocation to
develop the science and technology sectors.
The Minister also stressed the importance of producing more
scientists to conduct research and further develop the researches.
conducted in laboratories up to the industrial level.
Q: What are your plans for the science and technology sector
in Sri Lanka?
A: President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a leader who has reached
that position from the country's ordinary masses. Under Mahinda
Chinthana Idiri Dekma, the Government's economic strategy is to first
uplift the village economy and develop the country's economy later.
Therefore each research conducted by the scientists will be targeted to
achieve this goal of empowering the country's economy as annunciated in
Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma. There are 10 institutions which come
under this Ministry's purview. We have given guidelines to the
scientists and researchers who work in these institutions to go for
projects which would lead to uplift the country's economy. The world's
technology is developing daily. Therefore all our new inventions have to
be made by targeting the future world trends. We have given high
priority to promote nano technology in Sri Lanka. This would help us
properly utilise the materials available in the country for economic
There is a large scale mineral deposit in the North. The research
conducted by the Ministry has revealed that the world's best mineral
which can be used to make porcelain products is in the North. But this
mineral deposit should be used for productive purposes with nano
technology. The Ministry also intends to use nano technology to get
carbon from Bogala and Kahatagaha graphites which are considered as the
best carbon deposits in the world. If the nano technology is infused for
these two deposits, we can make precious products by using this carbon.
We have already conducted research in these areas. Our intention is to
go up to the level of industries by effectively using these natural
resources. We have a mineral sand deposit in Pulmudai as well. Therefore
Sri Lanka is a treasure island.
A lot of precious national resources are available in Sri Lanka. The
products made by them with the use of modern science and technology can
be sold to very expensive rates. But at present most of these resources
are exported only as raw materials. We have not touched even some of the
deposits in our country such as titanium oxide. The products gained from
other deposits are also exported as raw materials, not as value added
products. So many natural resources available within our land can be
utilised to develop the country. However, modern technology should be
properly utilised and we should reach upto the level of manufacturing
goods by utilising these precious natural resources. There is a need to
further develop the researches conducted in our laboratories up to the
industrial level. This what the Ministry is doing at the moment.
There is a need of producing more scientists to conduct more research
in Sri Lanka. Countries like China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore have
developed to that extent with the help of their skilled human resource
specially in the field of new technology. We have a lot of intelligent
people. So more interest and awareness should be created among the
people on the importance of science and technology sectors.
Q: How do you plan to strengthen scientific research
institutions in the country?
A: There are two mineral sand deposits in Matale and
Buththala. Still these are remained as untouched areas. At present
research is conducted by the Ministry to use nano technology to these
two deposits. I hope there is a possibility of obtaining the results of
some research conducted by the Ministry during this year. After that the
Ministry would discuss the outcome of those research with the
industrialists in Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has aimed to
take forward the country based on the development of science and
technology sectors. That is why the President at the previous budget
allocated Rs.1,000 million to set up a fund and requested the
researchers to commence their research activities.
As the President said at the previous budget, of the total GDP 5
percent has been reserved to carry out scientific research. Of that 2
percent has already been released to conduct the research activities of
the Ministry. This is a great victory achieved in the field of science
and technology sectors. There won't be a problem to allocate money to
conduct research for the next year. Therefore I have instructed the
institutions which come under my Ministry to submit their research
proposals. In addition if any private sector institution has invested
money for some scientific researches, it has been given a tax concession
which is double the money invested for that research. I believe we never
had a Government or a leader like this which has given such incentives
to conduct researches.
Q: How can we involve universities in more science and
A: Actually this is not a Ministry which can function
solitarily. There are a lot of research labs in universities,
Agriculture Ministry and Plantation Ministry. Therefore I think this
Ministry should function as a coordinating arm to all Ministries. At
present the Ministry has formulated the strategic plan required for this
and it will be implemented shortly.
Q: Is there a program to recognise and promote inventors and
A: The Ministry has laid special emphasis to promote new
inventions. We have not yet appointed a chairman to the Invention
Commission. But a chairman will be appointed to it shortly. The Ministry
has planned to issue patent rights to new inventions and will take such
inventions up to the level of industries. The inventors can be more
confident that the Government will provide necessary assistance to
viable inventions. I can't give the assurance that being a new
invention, all that inventions can be turned into the industries. As a
Government, we will extend our fullest assistance to bring the
inventions up to the industrial level which suit our economy and
Q: Are there programs to encourage more local investments in
the technology sector?
A: We have already discussed with MAS Holdings, Hayleys,
Dialog and Brandix. Because the private sector has also realised the
importance of infusing modern technology to further develop their
industries in this modern world trends. At present the Ministry has made
a close coordination with these private sector institutions. I should
also extend my thanks to some of these leading private sector
institutions towards their assistance made to our scientists to conduct
their research. This joint effort made between the private sector
institutions and the Ministry would facilitate to increase the
production and the productivity in the private sector. The Ministry is
helping the leading corporate sector industrialists to further develop
their industries. We have already started a project with Hayleys. This
project called "slow fertiliser project" would educate the farmers how
to minimise the use of fertiliser to their cultivation with the help of
new technology. We have also planned to introduce a new sensor system
which would help doctors identify the medical condition of people such
as ECG, pressure via mobile phone.
The leading private sector industries like MAS Holdings are working
with the Ministry to further develop their textiles and garments in
keeping with the international demand.
Q: How about encouraging the export of more electronic and
electrical goods from Sri Lanka?
A: At the early stage, the countries like Malaysia and Korea
could catch up with this trade. As a result, they have been able to
introduce quality products to the world. These countries have reached
the highest level of manufacturing these electronic and electrical
goods. Therefore if we try to start the production of these goods at
this stage, it will be a failure. So we have given priority to promote
nano technology and move forward. We have also made a proposal to
establish a major Science Centre in the Colombo city. It would provide a
perfect understanding to those who are keen to study on science and
At present we are in the process of formulating the project report
while a request has been made from the Urban Development Authority to
provide a land for this project. This project would also become a key
source of income to the foreigners and tourists who are interested in
ascertaining information on the historical and recent developments taken
place in the fields of Sri Lankan science and technology sectors
specially in the areas of construction and irrigation. Even during our
ancient times, we have been able to use a well developed technology for
construction and irrigation sectors which is sometimes very similar to
the technology used today. Therefore we should try to introduce this
technology to the world by combining it with the modern technology.
Q: Are you working with Education and Higher Education
Ministries to popularise science and technology subjects in schools and
A: At present the Ministry in collaboration with the students
who follow science subjects for their Advanced Level Examination are
forming Science Clubs countrywide. We intend to discuss this with
Education and Higher Education Ministries. The analytical thinking of a
student who has followed science subjects is different compared with
other students. Because he sees the world from a different perspective.
I think this thinking is needed for a country to move forward. Singapore
has pledged the National Science Foundation to conduct a science and
technology exhibition in Sri Lanka. This would focus more attention on
the practical sides of science rather than to its theoretical side. We
should create an interest among children on science from his childhood.
The Ministry hopes to conduct exhibitions at countrywide schools to
educate the children on the practical side of the science subjects
instead of teaching their theoretical side in schools.
Q: Has the Ministry planned to introduce a national policy on
science and technology?
A: At present there is a lack of national policy on science
and technology. The Ministry is exploring the possibility of introducing
a national policy on science and technology.
Q: There is a lack of scientists and resource persons to
conduct research in Sri Lanka and most of them have migrated to foreign
countries. How is the Ministry going to address this issue?
A: This is a long process. Sometimes the salaries offered to
scientists in Sri Lanka are very low compared with other countries. In
addition, there aren't enough places in Sri Lanka for scientists to
conduct their research. Therefore we should also provide assistance to
the private sector institutions to further develop their research
activities. Even today a lot of Sri Lankan scientists are working in
some of the private sector laboratories.
We should move these things towards the right direction. More
laboratories should be established in Sri Lanka to assist scientists to
do their research. At present the Ministry is preparing the necessary
mechanism required for this. Even though some scientists live in foreign
countries, steps should be taken to create a close coordination between
them and our scientists in Sri Lanka.
At present, we are in the process of collecting the data of Sri
Lankan scientists domiciled in foreign countries and conduct an
international level workshop in Sri Lanka with their participation by
the end of this year.
Q: When Sri Lanka is going to turn into the "wonder of Asia"
under the Mahinda Chinthana goals, science and technology sector too has
a vital role to play. How has the Ministry planned to face this
A: We have given priority identifying and giving due priority
to the various skills possessed by our people in relation to science and
We also intend to introduce modern technology used in the world to
our country and provide necessary financial assistance to our scientists
to conduct their research. If our scientists are willing to go to any
foreign country to further study on their subject, the Ministry will
also provide its assistance to them.
We also hope to infuse modern technology to our resources in the
country and get their maximum contribution towards the attempts made by
the Government to turn Sri Lanka into the "Wonder of Asia".