Speaking at the SLASSCOM CXO briefing, Rajapaksa noted that the one in Tripoli Market would be set up in response to an industry request and the one in Hambantota was part of a larger plan under the Hambantota development project.
“From the UDA we can assist and facilitate such programs if the private sector comes in. There are many opportunities for the development of such parks,” he said.
Construction on the knowledge park in Tripoli Market is likely to start this June and is expected to be ready for an official opening in late December this year or early next year.
“While the project at the Tripoli Market is underway, there is a plan to develop a knowledge park in Hambantota,” Rajapaksa said. “There are certain requirements for these companies such as facilities for families and children. That is why we are looking for places close to Colombo or in the metro Colombo region.
The one in Tripoli is the first step. However, we are looking at constructing another in Hambantota.”
The project which is to be carried out at the old Tripoli Market will be spearheaded by a non-profit organisation called Trace. A Trace official told the Daily FT that the core concept behind the project was to manufacture high quality products for the export market.
Having discussed the project with the Defence Secretary and the UDA in November, the plan is to build an “expert city” for professionals in various fields to work together and brainstorm on ideas and come up with value-added solutions that would increase business efficiencies and the quality of the products going out of the country.
“If you take Sri Lanka as a country, there is a huge trade deficit that needs to be bridged. How are we to address this deficit? Is it through tourism, tea, rubber or is it by creating brands such as Samsung, Google and Yahoo, which are large scale product innovations?” the official queried.
Noting that the country has many talented designers but no brand to show for the skill level of the people, the official noted that the objective was to build a common place for experts to work and create something uniquely Sri Lankan for the world.
The proposal to create a city for this purpose was put across to Rajapaksa, who then proposed a few suitable locations, of which the old Tripoli Market was one.
A number of doctors, lawyers, IT experts, software professionals, university academics and professionals representing a number of other fields are said to be part of the project. Trace will look at identifying the right people and building a facility that will create an environment for such innovations.
The Sri Lanka Navy is expected to do the construction work of the project.
Rajapaksa said: “It is very important that Sri Lankan companies in various other sectors also commit to development drives promoting new ventures and creating further growth opportunities in the country.”
There are many sectors in which Sri Lanka has tremendous potential, he asserted, noting that the IT and BPO sectors were two of the best examples. “There are already a number of companies that have made a mark internationally by developing high standard software products. Most of the software engineers and developers who have built these have been educated and trained here and are entrepreneurs who have built strong careers in the field.”
As the country moves forward, more and more such opportunities need to be exploited, he asserted. “Sri Lanka has extraordinarily talented professionals in many fields. They require more avenues to make use of their talent.”