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    Crisis-hit Sri Lanka Seeks ‘Value-add’ with Research

    ScienceIPR and patent regimeCrisis-hit Sri Lanka Seeks ‘Value-add’ with Research
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    Crisis-hit Sri Lanka Seeks ‘Value-add’ with Research

    Sri Lanka’s National Research Council has three different programmes focused on research grants that can generate direct economic benefits. Among the projects are self-sufficiency in milk and development of antivenom. NRC is seeking partnerships with other research councils.

    Crisis-hit Sri Lanka is focusing its research funding this year on projects that can generate direct economic benefits for the country, build capacity, and enhance human resource development, according to the chief executive of its National Research Council (NRC).

    “We will be providing grants to projects that value-add to natural resources and minerals in the country, renewable energy, agriculture, climate change and food security, and medical research,” says NRC’s Chief Executive Officer Shanika Jayasekera.

    Sri Lanka has been hit by acute inflation and a lack of foreign investment that has led to dramatic cuts in research funding and a crisis in its healthcare system.

    Founded in 1999, NRC was formally established in 2007 as a special agency under the country’s constitution to assist the government in planning, coordinating and facilitating research and development, and build a vibrant science and technology community.

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    The NRC has three different funding programmes – the Target Oriented Multidisciplinary Research Programme, the Public-Private Partnership Programme and the Investigator Driven Research Grant Programme.

    The Target Oriented Multidisciplinary Research Programme offers up to Sri Lankan Rupee 50 million (US$168,500) per project for a period of five years and is awarded to ten projects focusing on areas requiring immediate research and development interventions under the National Science and Technology Commission.

    Antivenom

    “The projects funded so far have focused on improving the dairy industry to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production; development of a polyvalent antivenom for snake bites; community mobilization and integrated vector management for dengue control; interdisciplinary study on chronic kidney disease of uncertain aetiology [cause]; and developing climate-smart agriculture techniques to ensure food security,” explains Jayasekera.

    In order to ensure research delivers on its promises, the NRC will “conduct assessment of completed research projects to evaluate their economic, social and environmental impact”, adds Jayasekera.

    For example, the findings of a project on establishing a national neonatal screening centre for congenital hypothyroidism resulted in the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians publishing a set of guidelines on management of congenital hypothyroidism.

    The Ministry of Health subsequently made it mandatory to screen newborns for congenital hypothyroidism in all government health institutions with birthing facilities.

    In order to further increase the impact of research in the country, the NRC is now seeking partnerships with other funders.

    “We are seeking partnerships with other research councils, both in developing and developed countries,” explains Jayasekera. “It is very much still a work in progress.”

    This piece has been sourced from SciDev.Net and was supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

    Image: A snake charmer at Galle Fort, Sri Lanka. The country’s National Research Council provided funding towards a number of projects including one for development of a polyvalent antivenom for snake bites. Copyright: theswallow1965(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED).

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