Published online 16 April 2008 | 452, 787 (2008) | doi:10.1038/452787b

News

Costa Rican biotech centre in peril

Government inactivity puts EU funds in jeopardy.

Costa Rica is on the verge of losing a multimillion-euro donation from the European Union (EU) to build a state-of-the-art biotech facility, because of government procrastination.

The EU put forward €10.9 million (US$17.3 million) for the National Centre for Biotechnological Innovation (CENIBiot) in 2005, but is threatening to withdraw it because the Costa Rican government has so far failed to produce the necessary contracts to purchase equipment and begin construction at the facility. The government, which is to contribute €4 million, is finally expected to issue its first tenders this week. But these will have to be answered, reviewed and approved by the end of this year if the money is to be kept. “The project is at a critical stage,” says Roelf Smit, the first councillor at the European Commission's delegation in San José, Costa Rica.

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CENIBiot was conceived as a technology-transfer laboratory to meet the needs of the Costa Rican economy, mainly in agriculture. Planners hope the centre will aid Costa Rica's coffee, pineapple and banana trade and lead to the development of locally grown biofuels. But two years after its inception, equipment has not been purchased and renovations have yet to begin at the site in a San José suburb. Marta Valdez, CENIBiot's director, declined to comment on the exact cause of the delay, and the government's Ministry of Science and Technology did not respond to <i>Nature</i>'s enquiries.

Smit says the decision to recall the money is standard procedure for the EU. “We don't want to have money sitting around for more than three years,” he says. 

See also Correspondence: Costa Rica’s biotech project still on track for end of year

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