By Gokhan Ergocun and Bahattin Gonultas
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) on Tuesday officially launched a $500 million fund to strengthen science, technology and innovation in the Muslim World.
The launch of the fund, which would support scientists in 57 IDB member countries, was made at the IDB's 43rd Annual Meeting in capital Tunis.
The fund had been announced for the first time in Kazakhstan in September 2017, by the IDB President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar.
Hajjar said the fund had great potential to create an innovation ecosystem in developing countries.
"It is not only about sharing ideas, it is also about funding," he added.
He said 57 IDB member countries face challenges in development and many of them could not solve their problems on their own.
The IDB wants to bring together developers to share value and build capacity among member countries, he said.
He said science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship were needed in an enabling environment.
"The IDB wants to be a catalyst so that people can lead the process of development," he added.
Giving every scientist opportunity
Dr. Hayat Sindi, chief scientific adviser to the IDB president, said the bank would like to give every scientist an opportunity to provide solutions to development challenges.
She said the aim of the fund was to give a boost to creative minds.
"We need to be generous and risk takers; the fund received 700 applications from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Malaysia," she said.
She added the bank had welcomed applications from several people and institutions, including nongovernmental organizations and researchers.
South African Minister of Higher Education and Training Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor said: "I see the fund as an opportunity to work together, not only in the Muslim World, but in the African continent."
Mohamed Hassan, Co-chair of the InterAcademy Partnership, said: "The IDB should use its power to bring other partners, such as the World Bank, to build capacity which is essential in developing scientists."
Prof. Zakari Abdulhamid, the Malaysian premier’s science adviser, said the IDB had been quite successful in changing lives during the last four decades.
He added the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries spend less than 1 percent of their gross domestic product on research and development activities, while developed countries spend 2.5 percent.
Representatives of 57 member states, senior government officials and ministers of finance, economy, planning and international development are attending the five-day meeting in Tunis.