The festive jubilee highlighted the achievements and explored future perspectives of bilateral cooperation in the presence of the Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, H.E. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the initiator of the German Egyptian Year of Science & Technology and former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Hany Helal, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, H.E. Thomas Rachel and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E. Julius Georg Luy. Furthermore, the “veterans” of the Science Year, who had coordinated the professional networks in 2007 and continue to be active in their respective disciplines, were also attending the celebration.
Both Egyptian and German affirmed the scope of academic and scientific relations between both countries which is very unique in the region quantitively (numbers of funding recipients have tripled since 2007) and qualitatively (research cooperation and practice oriented study programmes in various disciplines). The agreed upon co-financed programmes of 2007 have until now reached 700 scholars and enabled 60 cooperation projects.
Towards a knowledge based economy
During a panel discussion between different actors of joint research, study and funding projects; the importance of exchange and exposure was emphasised not only between researchers of different disciplines but also between academia and industry on one side, and economy and science on another. The panellists discussed important challenges, like the need to strengthen the local R&D sector and the role of industry, academia, and policy makers in this. This raised the question “how Egypt can move towards a knowledge based economy and society?” Basic to this development, Prof. Rasha Sharaf (Professor of International and Comparative Education at the University of Helwan) stressed on the pivotal importance of research methods and understanding of innovation being taught from high school level onwards. Dr. Mohamed Salheen (Director of the IUSD study programme) added the need of students to understand economic mechanisms, as well as policies, and strategic planning. All of those are combined in the joint MSc programme Integrated Urbanism & Sustainable Design (IUSD), that increases the entrepreneurial scene in Egypt through teaching researchers how to create economically feasible and applicable projects.
H.E. Thomas Rachel, urged the Egyptian academia and industry to invest in its strengths and make use of the great challenges by coming up with innovative and context specific solutions. Programmes like the planned 2+2 funding programme, which will fund bilateral research projects supported by partners from the industry in both Germany and Egypt, will encourage scientists to generate economically feasible research projects. Outcomes of such programmes would be profitable and attract private sector investors. Prof. Hazem Mansour (Director of the Science and Technology Development Fund) pointed out, that Egypt’s strong protection of the industry has created a reluctance to invest in research and thus a lack of R&D strategies for decades. Key to strengthening the local economy, according to Prof. Mansour, are thus raising awareness for the industry to invest more daringly, creating funding mechanisms, and providing the necessary infrastructure for this development.