The British University in Egypt (BUE) has come a long way since opening its doors a decade ago, priding itself on scientific research in fields like renewable energy and sustainability. Professor Yehia Bahei El-Din, vice president for Research and Post Graduate Studies, talks about the challenges facing research in Egypt and how it can be advanced and nurtured.
by Noha Mohammed
What are the challenges facing science and scientific research in Egypt?
Sustainability of research is a major challenge in Egypt. It takes resources and a supportive, incentivising, and rewarding environment to both attract and retain researchers. Policies must facilitate the job of researchers, not hinder their ambitions.
With national budget cutbacks and new austerity measures on the horizon, how important is it that private entities like BUE step in and provide alternative solutions for science and research?
BUE undertakes sustainability of research very seriously in the belief that this is the only way forward for Egypt. The university research plan offers mechanisms for the availability of resources, environment and policies to researchers. Many collaborative research projects are underway with other universities and with the industry to support new ideas and produce wonderful results. Hindrance, however, sometimes comes from outside in the form of regulations, which unfortunately are applied only to private universities.
BUE is one of the few private universities that has dedicated research centers. It was also one of the first campuses to offer specialized programs in renewable energy and advanced materials. What is BUE’s strategy to address the need for science and scientific research in Egypt?
We keep in mind Egypt’s strategic goals that are spelled out in national strategic plans. We support research that serves national ambitions and at the same time keeps our researchers competitive internationally. We believe that transfer of knowledge is the key to sustainable development, and as such BUE is launching a major Science and Innovation Park to support technology transfer and spin off companies. BUE research centers and their network of researchers and industries play a key role in this project.
Egypt and Africa are seeing huge development plans in renewable energy. How can BUE expertise be capitalized upon in these megaprojects?
BUE is already leading many projects in renewable energy with funding from Egypt, the European Union and the British Council. We are teaming up with the the industry and authorities to deliver prototypes of wind turbines to Egypt and support manufacturing of renewable energy components in Egypt. BUE testing facilities in wind and solar energy are open to Egyptian and international collaborators from academia and the industry. What new science and research faculties, facilities or programs are in the works at BUE?
In science and engineering there is a Faculty for Energy and Environmental Engineering and a Programme for Computer Engineering. New research centers have also emerged at BUE in top fields such as nanotechnology, predictive maintenance, and advance manufacturing. These fields are in demand in Egypt for development on both the technological front and the social front. They will provide the knowledge and the human capacity required.
Several years ago, BUE began offering postgraduate research degrees and programs. How do you assess their success in contributing to local research and development?
The postgraduate programs were designed to offer, whenever possible, multidisciplinary education. They have been well received and attracted university graduates to pursue their master’s degrees in advanced fields such as renewable energy, advanced materials, and web science. BUE’s connections with the industry have in particular contributed to the success of these programs and to the research performed by the postgraduate students.
Another obstacle facing science graduates is the limited job market. What needs to be done to fix this?
With Egypt’s strategic focus on the development of technologies, the demand for science graduates is, and will continue to be, on the rise. The key is to prepare students for the market and enhance their employability. This can be realized by offering curricula that provide a good science foundation to students. This should be followed by teaching state-of-the-art technologies, and then providing training for the market, both in terms of soft skills they need and acquaintance with the work environment, including knowledge and practice on industry-rated equipment and laboratories.
BUE has hosted regular startup events. How else does BUE promote entrepreneurial thinking?
BUE promotes entrepreneurial thinking by offering training and opportunities. The curricula, the technology transfer program, and the Science and Innovation Park sum up the activities at BUE to attract, prepare and support students for successful startups.