Science city to boost knowledge economy an enormous challenge

To promote the use of scientific research for sustainable development, Libya plans to set up a science and technology city (STC) to make use of the research, studies and innovative entrepreneurial ideas produced by universities and link them with developmental sectors.

Professor Ahmed Attia, the head of faculty affairs in the faculty of medical technology at the University of Tripoli, said the new science city will be an “effective way to stimulate a culture of innovation and to grow associated, knowledge-based businesses and research spinout companies as well as creating business incubators and start-ups which, in turn, attract and support university graduates.”

The STC will also bring vital benefits to universities and its associated science centres by providing a strong connection to the world of industry and commerce for the benefit of communities, Attia said.

Outlines of the STC were presented at the first meeting of the STC advisory council, according to a statement the ministry of higher education and scientific research posted earlier in May.

The establishment of STC is in line with Libya Vision 2030, which states that “Libya must develop a science, technology and innovation framework that channels resources to scientific research, research and development, improving the technical capabilities of the national workforce, and raising the quality of teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.”

Activities of the STC

Under the supervision of the Libyan Authority for Scientific Research and the Libyan Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the STC will be established in an area covering four hectares located in the Sawani Bin Adam region south-west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The STC will provide the appropriate environment for distinguished researchers and graduates of higher education and scientific research institutions. It will support them technically, administratively, and financially to translate the results of their research, scientific studies and inventions into economically feasible activities.

Jobs will be created for talented and creative university graduates to encourage areas of invention and innovation to achieve spatial development. The STC will also attract local and international scholars of scientific stature to contribute to spreading the culture of creativity, innovation and technological entrepreneurship.

Other benefits include stimulating technological production and providing supporting services to universities to achieve scientific excellence and technological competitiveness. The city will also focus on linking institutions of higher education and scientific research with public- and private-sector institutions and financing and investment institutions to facilitate the processes of integration between researchers, inventors, businessmen and investors.

Besides opening channels of communication with local and international innovation companies to transform the results of scientific research into economic value, the STC will stimulate the Libyan private sector to invest in science and technology and activate partnerships with universities.

Implementation a challenge

“It is relatively easy to plan for the establishment of a science city but hard to implement on the Libyan ground. This is because Libya’s science and technology development is still in the early stages,” Attia explained. “The financial aspect will also be the most influential factor in making the science city a reality.”

Attia’s view is supported by the 2022 study, ‘Medical and scientific research in Libya. Position on sustained developmental goals’, which states that Libya is behind the world in terms of research, health services, education, technology, engineering, science and innovation with a lack of sustainability elements for all SDGs.

Paving the rocky road

To create a successful city for science and technology in Libya, numerous conditions will have to be created to pave the rocky road towards establishing an innovation-based economy, Attia said.

“These include available sources of financing; a well-functioning network of technology and knowledge companies, institutions and businesses; and innovative universities and research institutes able to produce well-educated, creative knowledge workers as well as new ideas, products and services.”

Attia pointed out that reforming Libyan universities is a top priority to attain an innovative and sustainable science city to build a knowledge-based society founded on creative thinking and a knowledge-based economy based on translating science into impact.

Attia’s call for the transformation of Libyan universities is supported by a 2022 study, which found that higher education in the country is beset by crises that hamper its efficiency and effectiveness. This necessitates rethinking components and strategies in higher education to close the gap between its outcomes and labour market demands.