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Commonwealth told African economies should rely on science not cheap labour and foreign aid

Originally published 6 June 2003

Professor Kumar Bhattacharryya, leader of the UK University of Warwick’s internationally renowned Warwick Manufacturing Group is to tell senior policy figures at the 21st Commonwealth Science Council Meeting, Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday 9th June that African and other developing economies should invest in science technology and innovation and not simply rely on cheap labour and unpredictable foreign Aid.

In his speech to conference delegates including Dr Ben Ngubane, Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology of the Republic of South Africa, Professor Kumar Bhattacharryya will stress that developing countries had a unique opportunity to shape science technology and innovation policy in their countries.

Professor Kumar Bhattacharryya will point out that the developing world has wasted many years because “academic research programmes and their manufacturing export base often lived in splendid isolation from each other. Successful active science, technology and innovation policies should no longer be a privilege kept by developed countries”

His speech will call for science, technology and innovation (STI) policies to be revamped to link directly to indigenous economies. STI is no longer the privilege of developed countries. Research budgets in developing countries should be spent on solving home problems in a sustainable way.

Bhattacharryya called for scientists in developing countries to stop being driven by the need for recognition by Nobel Prizes, and to start focusing their efforts on less glamorous, less high-profile, but crucial, research to address problems back home.

The speech will address the barriers to sustainable development and focussed on the following issues: developing sustainable economic policies; refocusing STI strategies; sorting out the manufacturing base; investing and developing in human capital; and, finally, ensuring a capacity to respond to the international science, global markets and the world economy.

Bhattacharryya will also stress the need for connecting STI policies directly to the economy, and investing extensively in the R & D base - the life-blood of the country. He called for developing countries to stop themselves being used for cheap labour, to show some self-respect and foster a base that can develop its own technologies in a sustainable way, without needing to rely on unpredictable foreign aid.

He recommended universities should become more outward facing, with a dedicated proportion of their research to face the market. And he called for greater awareness to prevent the loss of a country’s expertise through brain drain caused by foreign ‘exchange’ programmes that did little other than to establish cheap outposts for the host countries.

Bhattacharryya will speak from his experiences of the manufacturing sector. His reputation is represented by the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group, which he created over 20 years ago, to close the gulf between the academic engineering knowledge base and the client base in industry.

For further information, contact:
Nick Matthews UK Mobile: +44 (0)777-5534352