Introduction of National Biotechnology Lottery by Bangladesh Biotechnology Council- A Fund Raising Strategy for Biotech Research in Bangladesh
In a previous article in this forum (if possible add link of the previous article here), I highlighted the need of establishing ‘Endowment Fund’ by all Departments of all Universities of Bangladesh by encouraging the alumni to donate for the fund. This has been the way of achieving excellence in research and education by all top Universities of the world and definitely this will be the our only way if we wish to establishing world class standard in education and research in the Universities and research centers of Bangladesh. We cannot depend on the Government of Bangladesh or the donor agencies to provide us the entire research fund we need, we have to create our own fund and endowment fund is the way to it. The endowment fund highlighted in the previous article, created by the alumni of the Department of Microbiology, University of Dhaka, can serve as a model in context of Bangladesh. As a possible solution to the scarcity of fund for government research organizations such as National Biotechnology Institute (NIB) or biotechnology research in Bangladesh, I have the following proposal.
The Initiative: To create an everlasting and ever-increasing Biotech Research Fund in Bangladesh.
Endowment Fund: A widely used system by educational institutes of different countries: Although endowment fund is very common in Universities and Research Institutes in USA and other countries, it is a novel concept for Bangladesh. Harvard University has an endowment fund of $ 32 billion; Yale has $16 and Stanford $14 billion in its endowment fund. These fund have been generated over a long period of time and more cash being added each year through contributions from the alumni, friends and through fund raising. The big endowment fund and the profit generated from it enables these Universities to maintain the lead positions in the world. Only part of the profit generated each year is used by the University and the rest is reinvested with the capital continues to grow; so that a continued, strong financial support is available for research and development initiatives.
What should we do: We need to adopt this idea in Bangladesh and take initiative to create endowment fund. The fund should be fixed deposited in a bank as an endowment fund. No more than 50 % of the profit generated each year will be used for Research and Development. The other 50 % will be reinvested with the capital. So, with time the fund will grow exponentially due to the cumulative effect of new cash injection each year and the profit generated from the cash balance of the previous year. Thus it will be an everlasting and ever-increasing fund for Biotech research in Bangladesh.
How to raise the fund: The Government cannot solve all problems of the country. The money allocated for higher education mostly goes for salary of the faculty members and staff and maintaining the infrastructure. As a result, very little money is available for research. So, it will be a smart move if the people of Bangladesh can be involved in solving our national problems—one such problem is scarcity of fund for research in Bangladesh. But how to engage the people in solving the problem of scarcity of research fund? The people may not come forward unless there is a reward or possibility of getting a reward. So LOTTERY is the solution. In many countries including USA, part of profit generated by lottery goes for scientific research.
The Proposal: To initiate a National Biotech Lottery by the Bangladesh Biotechnology Council (BBC).
The Lottery: Frequency of lottery: Bimonthly, (1st day of alternate moths) or quarterly. Price of Ticket: Taka 10. Prize should be lucrative: 50 % of the revenue generated should be given away as prize.
Mass Scale publicity is a must: Everybody of Bangladesh should know about it. It should be publicized in print media, TV, radio, flyers etc. There should be discussion on it in each and every high school from class nine for few minutes every month. It should be seen as a nation building effort. TV channels should give free time to have discussions on it. Newspapers should give free space for publicity as this a Nation building effort, a noble cause. All Govt. employees must by one ticket per month. It must be included in their job description. Mass scale publicity to be taken to such a level that buying a ticket is seen a patriotic act, a way of participation in the nation building efforts.
The Lottery should be a National Event: The whole nation should be made excited about it. The prize should be announced on the 1st of alternate months, just before the main Bangla news of the night or just after the news or may be at half time of the news. The prize should be drawn by a famous person every month. The whole country should know that the 1st day of the alternate months is Lottery day. The whole nation should be glued to the TV, keen to know who became the lucky person this month. The winners should be interviewed in TV, newspapers etc. The whole system must be transparent, highly publicized event.
Few years is enough: Within few years, the fund will grow into millions of dollars and continue to grow (as 50 % of the profit generated each year will be reinvested with the capital, according to the principle of the endowment fund) even if there is no further capital infusion each month. Over the years, the fund may become as big as Noble fund and continue growing.
Money is the solution: World class biotech research center in Bangladesh is a doable project. If the project has money, it can pay huge salary to the productive scientist and get the return in terms of patents, new technology, commercial production, sales etc. The National Biotech Fund should have a significant portion of the fund for private entrepreneurs with great promise. This is a must. It will not be possible to carry out research in every aspects of Biotech research by the biotech centers. Also there should be a system in place so that Biotech companies can be spinned off from ideas and technologies developed by the Scientists.
In a series of 3 articles with regard to the scarcity of research fund in Bangladesh and how to address the situation; this is my second article “Introduction of Biotechnology Lottery by Bangladesh Biotechnology Council”. In 2007, there was an International Biotechnology Conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh which was attended by top biotechnology scientists of Bangladesh and abroad. I sent a proposal to the organizing committee to include “Biotechnology Lottery’ as an agenda item, discuss and if approved by the committee, then takes the proposal to the regulatory authorities of Bangladesh Government. But the organizing committee refused to discuss the proposal and described it “outrageous”. But if BBC agreed to the proposal of introducing biotechnology lottery in 2007, it would have raised 50-100 crore BD taka by now. And if operated on the principles of endowment fund, it would be a milestone achievement in establishing BBC as financially independent, self-sustaining research institute. If Bangladesh Red Cross can raise fund through national lottery, why not BBC?
This is the age of Biotechnology on a global scale. We do not want to be left behind. If Bangladesh wants to take advantage of the benefits offered by Biotechnology, it should be given due importance. Research and development in Biotechnology should not be held ransom by scarcity of fund. We should think out of the box and look out for novel ways of fund raising; introducing a national lottery by BBC will definitely be a smart step forward in this direction
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