Sri Lanka R&D still facing funding, risk-taking constraints

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan companies are spending more on research and development but are still constrained by lack of funding and a reluctance to take risks, a new survey by the island’s export and innovation agencies has found.

The Electronic Sector Baseline Survey, an industry-wide field study on Sri Lanka’s hi-tech sector, was jointly done by the Export Development Board and Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI).

It covered 70 firms, mostly set up by foreign investors, which collectively have an R&D investment pool of about 25 million US dollars, a statement said.

“Owners of electronic SMEs are challenged by finances, marketing, value addition and quality improvement,” it said.

“A substantial number of these companies are in component manufacturing rather than (original design manufacturing) or original equipment manufacturing and therefore value addition is minimal.”

“We need to change our thinking” said Ajith P De Alwis, Project Director of COSTI, the government body responsible for coordinating and monitoring all science, technology and innovations activities in the country.

“We need to make our products looks exciting. For example, take our tea – due to lack of innovation and R&D today it is the government that is trying to save this sector. This is despite having special research institutions on tea alone.”

Himali Jinadasa, acting Director General of the EDB, said the export agency was currently focusing on diversifying the island’s exports basket.

“We note that our exports are basically primary goods adopting local economic practices,” she told a forum where the survey findings were announced.

“Even hi-tech exports are mostly component exports as our pioneering industry survey reveals.”

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Dayani Wegapitiya, EDB’s Director of Policy & Strategic Planning, said the island’s share of the world’s hi-tech exports was just one percent.

“Still, we have diversified our national export basket from 485 products in 1980 to 3775 by last year. Increasing R&D is a promising export development option.”

Last year, Sri Lankan hi-tech and electric and electronic exports stood at 343 million dollars, accounting for 2.89 percent of the total exports.  (Colombo/November 08 2015)

 

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