• Establishment of a digital platform to harness Sri Lankan scientific and professional expatriates for national development
     
    There are nearly three million Sri Lankan expatriates and emigrants, including an appreciable number of reputed scientists and professionals holding senior positions in academia, R&D institutions, and industry. They undoubtedly constitute a formidable potential asset of Sri Lanka which has hitherto been almost untapped and untouched for national development. In fact, many SL expatriates are keen to contribute to the development of the motherland. However, the lack of a credible and pragmatic mechanism has hindered such contribution, while countries such as China, India and Taiwan have derived remarkable benefits by harnessing expatriates for national development.
    1. Research Promotion for Country’s Development: The Road-map and Implementation Framework - done in June 2021

    The Implementation Framework and the proposed list of Priority Research Areas and Market Gaps shall be the essential components of the road-map for promoting research. The implementation framework focuses on six key elements;

      1. The information platform: To establish a publicly accessible dynamic web portal that shall contain essential information on research priority needs of the country and supply side research seeds (based on proven track records in research and innovations) and to be maintained by an independent entity.
      2. The sub unit for promotion and facilitation: A responsible entity that will bring the demand side ‘needs’ and supply side ‘research seeds’ together to enable promotion and facilitation of the entire value chain.
      3. Impact management: A sub-unit for monitoring and observing the connections of the value chain to spot the successes and deficiencies at each point to enable corrective measures based on lessons learnt.
      4. Grant opportunities and financing: To publicize relevant information regarding funding opportunities, convey information on sources of finances available for research based on the specific requirement and develop and facilitate searches for funding using information technology services.
      5. Policy framework: Establishment of a well-designed policy element to offer a transparent regulatory mechanism that will cover the entire process of the implementation framework.
      6. Performance assessment: The effectiveness of the process and the outcome/outputs of the framework shall be monitored through the use of key performance indicators linked to timelines for all critical elements in the framework.

    Annex 01 – Road-map (pdf,82kb)

    Annex 02 – Implementation Framework (pdf,42kb)

     

    1. Proposed list of Priority Research Areas and Market Gaps – Done in July 2021

    In the Concept Paper on ‘Research Promotion for Country’s Development: The Roadmap’. The proposed Implementation Framework described in detail the elements to be considered that includes the priority research areas related to market trends and supply potential. The research focus shall be on applied research and product development, with each specific area identified having an economic rationale for research and development intervention through bridging of market gaps, ensuring economic returns for all stakeholders, through environmental impact and improvement of life quality index. Most are related to the research priorities already proposed by the NSF that are linked to the national policy framework (The Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the National Research and Development Framework (NRDF).

            Annex 03 - High priority research areas (projects) for potential funding identified by RA (pdf,128kb)

     

    1. Subcommittee proposal to overcome the delays in processing foreign research grants - report that was submitted by the Sub Committee appointed to look into concerns on processing foreign grants – done in June 2021.

    Today, Sri Lankan academic community and the country itself stand to lose support of international institutions because of the extensive delays in the approval process adopted as per the Circular no. PS/SP/SB/Circular/06/2019. The Circular may have been drafted to prevent unplanned foreign loans that would empty national coffers with little benefit. At a time when Sri Lanka needs foreign currency inflows, action has been initiated through the National Science Foundation to solve this pressing problem due to its critical importance in moving forward as a nation.

    Although we are discussing this in terms of Science, this issue is affecting all other spheres of research, academic work and international collaborations by Universities and research institutions. 

    The Problem: Probable Unintended Consequences of Circular no. PS/SP/SB/Circular/06/2019

    The Circular does not specifically mention "Research, research grants or Universities", but mainly refers to large projects with a loan component. It has been indiscriminately applied by government institutions and office bearers to foreign grants and international cooperative agreements or MoUs, including those which lack any form of funding element.

    The misinterpretation of this Circular has resulted in the following unfortunate outcome:

      • Unacceptably Lengthy Delays prevent Sri Lankan scientific and academic community moving forward with worthy projects and scientific research with resultant lack of (or poor) progress in scientific output in spite of grant funding made available. Such delayed projects include renewals, which too are covered by rigorous scientific review processes prior to release of funds.
      • Loss or Delays of Foreign Currency Inflows.A number of critical research projects are in danger of losing international funding and support. Some have received unilateral extensions from granting institutions but are unable to use the funds pending approval.
      • Loss of Credibility with International Agencies and Institutions.Scientists and institutions risk losing credibility built over years as trusted collaborators. Sri Lanka is losing credibility as a destination for world-class research funding with good performance.

    How to Solve the Problem?

    We propose the following in order to address this issue:

    To Establish a Transparent Regulatory Framework led by the National Science Foundation with Central Monitoring for Foreign Funds awarded for Scientific Research, Collaborative Agreements and to Clear Existing Backlog of Foreign Grants and MoUs

      • Issue another Circular that would be applicable to institutional research grants and research collaborations.
      • Appoint the National Science Foundation as the central regulatory body responsible to screen and monitor foreign funds received by universities and research institutions and collaborative agreements related to scientific advancement.
      • Vice Chancellors or Heads of Research Institutions to be given the responsibility to ensure accountability of the funds received and also to ensure transparency through making the grant information available on the institutional websites.
      • Allow fund transfers directly to the institution of the Principal Investigator.

    Expedite the process to enable funds caught up in the delays to be immediately deposited directly into a bank account of the relevant University or research institution and allowing research grants and MoU’s already within the system for Universities to proceed with monitoring done through the above proposed mechanisms.

    These measures, we trust, would address the concerns of the Government and ease the research funding and approval backlog that is harming our nation and the reputation of researchers and institutions with long-term implications.

     

    1. Setting up Steering Committees (SCs) under each RA member – SCs appointed in August 2021

    Establishment of Steering Committees (SC) was done under the purview of the RA to represent clusters for promoting R&D in each priority area. SCs consist of a core group of experts in the relevant field who will steer activities related to the assigned area to identify the niche areas, essential research gaps and priorities for further studies to promote economic returns through R&D investments.

     

    1. Call for Project Proposals for Special Research Grants (To address current high priority areas of the Country) and gap filling grants – done in August 2021

    Proposals were called for Special Research Grants, from identified experts, to address national priority needs, through commissioned research during the Pandemic. Request for submission of project proposals on priority areas as listed below was made under ‘limited competition funding opportunity announcement’ that was sent to 22 scientists and 07 former NSF grantees with promising results in product development(as evaluated by the Research Division) who required limited funding to elevate the level of output to enable commercialization.

    Priority areas for research:

      1. Serious environmental concerns, health hazards and environmental impacts emanating from the recent shipwreck, including issues related to public concerns on consumption of fish.
      2. Food safety: Contamination of food commodities with aflatoxin, heavy metals, pesticide residues etc.
      3. Green energy: energy sources and storage
        1. Development of cost-efficient green energy sources for generating energy
        2. Development of energy storage devices (batteries/ super capacitors)
      4. Ayurveda : research aimed at boosting immunity using herbal products and plantmaterial that act against bacterial and viral diseases including COVID-19
      5. Organic Agriculture: Research aimed at developing insect repellents to reduce pesticide usage in agriculture;use of Organic manure
      6. Post-harvest losses: Development of cost-effective storage facilities for fruits and vegetables (i.e., Geo-cooling systems) for reducing post-harvest losses
      7. Mitigation of human: wildlife (elephant) conflict
        1. Development of low-cost technological innovations/sensors to detect and monitor
        2. The presence of mycotoxin, heavy metals, pesticides residues, natural toxins in food
        3. Fruit quality i.e., Brix value
        4. Soil moisture and nutrient status (N, P and K) in soil/growth media
        5. Development of cost-effective tools i.e. electronic eye, noses etc. for early detection of incidence of diseases, determine organoleptic properties of food items etc.

    Annex 04 - Summary of Grants Awarded in 2021 (pdf, 107kb)

     

    1. International Funding Opportunities – links put up on the NSF Website – September 2021

    A schedule was prepared with collaboration of the International Affairs Division of NSF giving the following information country wise; The Funding Agency, the Programme, Deadline and Contact information.

     

     

  • Prof. Ranjith Senaratne, Chairman of the National Science Foundation was the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education of the KDU held on 24. February 2022. It was organized by  Dr. Faiz Marikkar, Director of the Staff Development Centre and was attended by Major General Milinda Pieris, VIce-Chancellor, Prof. K.A.S. Dhammika, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Deans and academic staff.

  • In keeping with the national policy, the NSF has accorded high priority to strengthen local industries in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, Prof. Ranjith Senaratne, Chairman, Dr. Dilrukshi Ranatunga, Head, Division of Science Communication and Outreach and Eng. Mahesh Dissanayake, Head, Division of Research of the NSF visited the State Ministry of Rattan, Brass, Pottery, Furniture and Rural Industrial Promotion on 03rd March 2022 and held discussions with its Secretary,   Mr. Vijith Bandaranayake and other senior officials  with a view to identifying high-priority interventions that could potentially promote exports  in the short and medium term time horizons.

  • There are nearly three million Sri Lankan expatriates and emigrants in the world, including an appreciable number of reputed scientists and professionals holding senior positions in academia, R&D institutions and industry. They constitute a formidable potential asset of Sri Lanka which has hitherto been almost untapped for national development.

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