Tunisia has a strong and diverse scientific community based on three universities with science and technology activities, 18 national research institutes (NRIs); and a small but expanding private R&D presence including a growing number of international joint ventures.
The total number of researchers in public sector NRIs was 587 by late 1995, Assuming that the teaching staff in the S&T faculties of the universities spends half of its time on research this suggests a current national research base of around 2 300 full-time researchers in the public sector, and perhaps 3 000 when private sector researchers are included.
Tunisia's S&T policies is now perhaps the most developed and sophisticated in the Maghreb. A number of ministries and national agencies are directly involved in Tunisia's S&T policy framework, the most important actors being:
a) Secrétariat d'Etat à la Recherche Scientifique et à la Technologie (SERST)
The key central agency in administering and co-ordinating national S&T programmes is the SERST which was set up in 1991 and is directly linked to the Office of the Prime Minister. It collaborates closely with other Ministries through the "Conseil Supérieur de La Recherche Scientifique et de la Technologie (CSRT)" in formulating and managing national S&T activities. SERST's prime remit is to undertake the strategic planning, co-ordination and evaluation of all Tunisian RTD funded by the state budgets. It has direct management responsibility for 8 NRIs, for the National University Centre for Scientific and Technological Documentation and also plays a lead role in the commercialisation and valorisation of S&T research results. SERST is also charged with developing and encouraging international scientific and technological co-operation for Tunisian institutions.
b) Ministry of Higher Education
The Ministry has an important role to play in Tunisian S&T policy through its responsibility for the 89 faculties and schools in the nation's six universities, and for two (non S&T) NRIs within its remit. The Ministry's General Director for Scientific Research and Technology has responsibility for R&D co-ordination between the three universities with S&T activities, and for funding their S&T teaching, research and building programmes and initiatives.
In addition, other ministries are directly involved in Tunisian RTD activities and the funding of S&T:
National expenditure on RTD activities in Tunisia has grown sharply over the five years of the 8th plan (1992-1996) from 39 million of Tunisian Dinars (TD) to 110 million of TD.
Table 5. Expenditure on RTD Activities in Tunisia under the 8th National
Plan by Source, Sector and Purpose, 1992-1996, Million Tunisian Dinars.
|Gross Domestic Product (GDP)||13 706||14 649||15 904||17 256||19 239|
|Expenditure on RTD||39.0||47.0||54.0||62.0||67.0|
|RTD as % of GDP||0.29||0.32||0.34||0.36||0.35|
|Public Sector Expenditure on RTD||37,5||45.4||51.0||57.5||61.7|
|Private Sector Expenditure on RTD||1,5||1,6||3.0||4.5||5.3|
Public Sector NRIs
Public Sector RTD Components
Despite the policy priority being given to S&T activities in Tunisia, the 0,3% of public sector expenditure devoted to RTD activities is significantly below that achieved in most European Union member States. Private sector expenditure on RTD, as far as can be determined from the limited data available, only accounted for around 7% of total expenditure, principally reflecting the relatively small size of the private sector.
The largest component of current RTD expenditure within the NRIs is within the agriculture, fishing and environmental protection sectors, which together accounted for some 21%, with public health NRIs accounting for 12%. As can be seen from table 5, nearly half of RTD expenditure was in personnel salaries and associated costs (in 1994) a quarter on operating and overhead costs, 6% on equipment, and 16% on RTD programme initiatives, which have grown rapidly throughout the early 1990s.