Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen discusses the Lankan SME way forward march with Deputy Dean of Tokyo’s Asian Development Bank Institute Dr Bokhwan Yu (far-right) as NEDA Director Lakshman Wijeyewardene (far left), ADB Institute Senior Economist Dr Paul Vendenberg (secound from left) and other officials look on at JAIC Hilton Colombo on 22 December - Pic by Lasantha Kumara
Holds first global innovation forum, calls for private-public partnerships, aims to create new SME initiatives
In the race to match local innovation culture to global standards, the private sector was called upon by the Government yesterday to link with South Asia and its multitude of multinationals.
The pioneering call by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was issued during the first ever international innovation forum to be held in Colombo, co-organised by several State-run entities and the Tokyo based Asian Development Bank Institute.
“Rather than innovating alone as a country, I believe that we can enhance our innovation efforts by joining with the South Asian innovation corridor. India alone is home to research and development centres of more than 300 multinational corporations. Imagine the opportunities for our innovators if we can link with at least two of them. There are huge innovation partnership opportunities in the region,” Bathiudeen said, addressing the first ever international session on SMEs and research and development to be held in Sri Lanka.
The event was co-organised by the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA), Sri Lanka’s Coordinating Secretariat for Science Technology and Innovation (COSTI) and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). It saw the participation of more than 30 global experts on innovations and SMEs, converging in Colombo to form a blueprint for a groundbreaking Sri Lankan SME Innovation Accelerator. The proposed accelerator is expected to enable SMEs in R&D and demonstrate new marketable products based on new tech applications. The Colombo sessions are scheduled to conclude on 23 December. Among the experts at the Colombo session will be renowned global economist and ADB Institute Senior Economist Dr. Paul Vendenberg, who is reputed in capacity building and training.
“Innovation efforts in a country like Sri Lanka need to be well focused so that innovation to market cycles are faster and cost effective especially for the financing organisation. At present this is true for not only private sector research and development but public sector research and development agencies as well. It is here that public-private partnership models become a practical solution. I am pleased that Sri Lanka Institute of Nano Technology (SLINTEC) is such a success story with top corporates becoming stakeholders in it. This is a PPP success story,” said Bathiudeen.
“Still, as government agencies, we cannot focus only on corporate innovations and relax. There is that one million strong SME sector of Sri Lanka that needs innovation support. About 92% of our SMEs are micro-scale enterprises mostly in the rural trade sector. Urban SMEs usually have ready access to infrastructure and facilities, while rural SMEs have to overcome an additional set of issues related to these. I believe now you can understand where Sri Lanka SME innovation priorities are to develop them further,” he added.
Deputy Dean of Tokyo’s Asian Development Bank Institute Dr. Bokhwan Yu addressing the event said that SMEs play a crucial role in many Asian countries. “They are seen as product accelerating economic growth. SME research and development requires access to finance, good human resources and a targeted approach to R&D. This informative session in Colombo is expected create new SME initiatives.”
Head-quartered in Tokyo, ADBI provides intellectual input for policy makers in its developing member countries by doing research with a focus on medium- to long-term development on given issues.