Hon. Minister of Education of Sri Lanka, Dr. Susil Premajayantha heads a delegation to visit ICGEB HQ.

Sri Lanka Regional Research Centre steams ahead

The Honorable Minister of Education of Sri Lanka, Dr. Susil Premajayantha, visits ICGEB Headquarters and laboratories in the Area Science Park, Trieste, Italy

On 28 February 2024, ICGEB was delighted to receive the Honorable Minister of Education of Sri Lanka, Dr. Susil Premajayantha.

The visit, which included Mr. N. Gunawardena, an ICT expert from Sri Lanka, follows a recent mission by the Minister to the ICGEB New Delhi Component, and a site visit by Dr. Lawrence Banks, ICGEB Director-General, Dr. Ramesh Sonti, Director, ICGEB New Delhi, India, and Prof. Shekar Mande, member of the ICGEB Council of Scientific Advisers, to the Sri Lanka Institute of Biotechnology SLIBTEC, in Pitipama, Homagana, Sri Lanka, penned to become an ICGEB Regional Research Centre.

The Memorandum of Understanding establishing the location of the RRC at SLIBTEC was signed in August 2023. Minister Premajayantha, during the visit, updated the ICGEB on the “progress made to consolidate the premises, facilities, and infrastructure, which sits on a 77 acre site.” His vision is to establish the area as a Science and Technology hub within the next five years; a goal he considers feasible given the nearby location of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC), two Universities, a secondary school with a technology stream, and a telecom institution, all in the area.

In addition, incentives including free accommodation, interest-free loans for more than 4,000 students who enrol in universities that will be increased further, and investments from Sri Lankan alumni who now own their own pharmaceutical companies in the USA and who are interested in contributing, the Minister sees the development of the public/private sector of SLIBTEC as an independent institution, facilitating the passage to industry.

Quoting from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education Progress 2023 and Forward Vision 2024 Volume on General Education, Minister Premajayantha believes “One of the main goals of education is to contribute in national development by investing human capital that develops and builds student skills through education. It is our responsibility to open the world for research and innovation discoveries to Sri Lankan students.”

The ICGEB, which is currently processing numerous requests for RRCs (national endeavours to internationalise science in its Member States), affirms that it can assist through scientific collaboration, particularly in the field of cancer and microbiology research, but also through its Technology Transfer and Biomanufacturing activities, “Making it possible to manufacture reagents and enzymes directly, and thereby containing costs,” adds Dr. Vittorio Venturi, ICGEB Scientific Coordinator who headed the ICGEB delegation during the Ministerial visit.

The Minister mentioned the great value of ICGEB’s CRP grants, among its other extramural programmes, to support the development of the laboratories, which are also supported by some Government funding.

During the visit the Honorable Minister of Education of Sri Lanka, Dr. Susil Premajayantha, had the opportunity to meet the President of Area Science Park, Prof. Caterina Petrillo, who illustrated the core activities, strategic priorities and future development prospects of the research body and the scientific and technological park managed by Area. In the afternoon, the Minister visited Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, the third-generation Italian synchrotron radiation facility serving the national and international scientific and industrial community. He met with the Chief Scientific Officer and beam-line scientists.

The visit was hailed as an opportunity to provide insight into the ecosystem of Area Science Park, as a possible model of interest for Sri Lanka.