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Tech centre promises STEM growth

Sum Manet / Khmer Times Share:
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The ICT Innovation Centre (IIC) project broke ground on Friday and will take 18 months to complete, according to a top official from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Construction of the building will be funded through the national R&D Fund, with the cost estimated at $4 million.

The fund was created in July last year to aid the development of the ICT sector. Each telecom firm in the country has to contribute one percent of their gross revenue to the reserve.

A separate fund, known as the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USO Fund), requires companies to contribute one percent of their revenue.

“The innovation centre is a key project financed through the R&D Fund,” said Telecommunications Minister Tram Iv Tek.

It is located in the National Institute of Posts, Telecoms and ICT.

“The centre will produce highly qualified ICT experts,” he added.

With universities in the kingdom generally failing to teach research skills and promote innovation, the new centre seeks to fill gaps in students’ academic and professional development, particularly for R&D, innovation and the promotion of entrepreneurial and startup culture, he said.

Kan Channmeta, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said it would also promote the link between academia, industry and government.

Startups and students who meet certain criteria will be eligible to take advantage of the services offered at IIC.

“We are now working on the criteria for admissions,” Mr Channmeta said.

“All qualified startups will be able to access the centre free of charge. We will help them improve their product and make it into a realistic project that can be monetised. The centre will have mentors for coaching.”

Mr Channmeta said the new centre sought to equip students with the skills they needed to join the labour market, adding that technology was now a key driver of economic growth.

“We need to promote maths, science and technical subjects to aid the development of the nation and help Cambodia compete within Asean,” Mr Channmeta said.

The building will have an area of 6,000 square metres on four storeys. It will have a research lab, a co-working space, conference rooms, a restaurant and a cafe, among other facilities and amenities.

While the centre is being built, the ministry will use money from the R&D Fund to subsidise access to co-working spaces in Phnom Penh for 100 to 200 students a year who need space to work on their startup ideas.

Co-working spaces included in the scheme will be near high schools and universities, Mr Channmeta said.

“We can’t wait for the centre to be ready. We need to start helping students give shape to their ideas now.”

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