EDB joins Lanka’s innovation giant to push hi-tech exports, R&D

Daily FT

02/10/2015

EDB joins Lanka’s innovation giant to push hi-tech exports, R&D

From left: EDB DG-Actg Himali Jinadasa, EDB Chairman & CEO Bandula Egodage, COSTI Chairperson and CEO Prof. Sirimali Fernando, COSTI Project Director Prof. Ajith de Alwis and COSTI Program Director Shehan Ratnavale team up on 30 September at EDB for their pioneering Hi tech-R&D-Innovation Forum for Lankan CEOs slated before end of this year in Colombo

As Sri Lanka’s ranking surged in the latest Global Innovation Index, two apex Lankan state institutions are joining forces for the first time to boost the country’s hi-tech and innovation exports to the next level – and first ever hi tech R&D and Innovation Forum for Lankan CEOs is now on the cards, as revealed on 30 September in Colombo. “We welcome COSTI’s collaborative interest to partner with EDB. It is time we join forces to help our hi-tech exports to the next level,” said EDB Chairman and CEO Bandula Egodage.

Chairman Egodage was in discussions with the three-member team from the Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI) of Sri Lanka. The 2013 established COSTI is the apex Lankan body coordinating and monitoring science, tech and innovation in the country while promoting value addition and commercialisation of them in line with the National Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Strategy of Sri Lanka. Visiting COSTI team consisted of COSTI Chairperson and CEO Prof. Sirimali Fernando, Project Director Prof. Ajith de Alwis and Program Director Shehan Ratnavale. Joining the discussion were EDB DG-Actg Himali Jinadasa and other top officials and sector directors of EDB.

“We welcome COSTI’s collaborative interest to partner with EDB which is timely,” said Egodage, and added: “It is time we join forces to help our hi-tech exports to the next level. We understand that hi tech exports are not limited to ICT/BPO and even value added nanotech and nutraceuticals are part of it. We are pleased of COSTI’s successful projects in these segments.”

Prof. Sirimali Fernando addressing Chairman Egodage said: “Sri Lanka’s hi tech exports can grow to a higher level with closer industry partnership through EDB and COSTI. We believe that enhanced research and development for the hi-tech sector for ICT, nanotech, nutraceuticals, and value added mineral processes can boost our hi-tech export to 3%. Both EDB and COSTI can enlist the private sector CEOs in high tech in a specially designed Forum to start off the process, which could be held within this year itself.

“The aim of this pioneering joint awareness session is to identify priority sub-sectors of development and boosting hi tech exports to 3% from the current 1%. It is here that we have good news: Sri Lanka private sector’s contribution to research and development now stands at 45% from the 2% that was earlier. This greatly helps Lankan innovation and success stories.”

The Global Innovation Index 2015 released on 17 September showed Sri Lanka suddenly leaping from 105th position in 2014 to 85th position this year!

“Synergising of both EDB and COSTI would greatly help boost our hi-techs,” said Himali Jinadasa and added: “It is time that we create awareness on benefits for hi-tech investors in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s triple tax benefits are highly attractive for such investors but not known by the investors. The forthcoming awareness Forum for CEOs and Lankan hi tech players by EDB and COSTI can highlight the benefits and returns, especially at a time when we are looking at bigger ICT exports by this year’s end, as per EDB estimates.”
EDB projections showed that Sri Lanka’s ICT-dominated hi-tech exports are to cross $1 billion barrier this year-a year before the previously forecast time frame!

“Innovation, strengthened by R&D can help the hi-tech exports,” said Prof. de Alwis and added: “it is time that new mechanisms such as innovation vouchers as used in UK are considered here. The definition of hi-tech too needs to be updated, perhaps in line with OECD’s.”
“COSTI wants to work with EDB to enable bigger private sector enlistment through such efforts as seminars and conferences, and increase hi tech exports further. Lot of Lankan firms are beginning to identify hi tech value addition areas. I agree to the suggestion by Jeevany Siriwardene to bring in a strong R&D component since we can agree on a national R&D definition which will also lead to clear identification of hi tech exports spread.”

In 2013, Sri Lanka’s ICT exports totalled $ 720 million and in 2014, it rose to $ 815 million. Sri Lanka has an ambitious target of increasing ICT/BPM exports to $ 5 billion by 2022.