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Cablegate: Moroccans Propose Areas for Science-Tech

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0053/01 0271255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271255Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1087
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0657
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 0059
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS RABAT 000053

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DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND NEA/PPD, OES/STC AND AF/W
OES/STC PLEASE PASS TO SCIENCE ENVOY ZERHOUNI
USAID/W FOR MEA
AMMAN FOR ESTH - BHALLA
DOE FOR AFRICAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN POLICY -
ERICKSON
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA AND FAS/OCBD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TNGD TSPL EINV ETRD KPAO MO XY
SUBJECT: MOROCCANS PROPOSE AREAS FOR SCIENCE-TECH
COOPERATION

REF: RABAT 0006 (NOTAL)

1. (SBU) Summary: Responding to President Obama's
call for increased cooperation in scientific and
technological fields, prominent Moroccan
researchers and businesspersons have created a
working group to identify promising areas of U.S.-
Morocco collaboration, including agriculture,
energy, aerospace, health, phosphates, water, and
education. Moroccan officials, researchers, and
businesses are excited about the prospect of
enhanced cooperation with the U.S. However, they
caution that other countries are also wooing
Moroccan partners, and the U.S. needs to follow up
quickly on the President's commitments to avoid
missing opportunities. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------
MOROCCAN INITIATIVE RESPONDS TO POTUS SPEECH
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) Inspired by the President's June 4 speech
in Cairo, a working group led by members of the
Moroccan Fulbright Alumni Association (MFAA) has
conducted a series of consultations and
brainstorming meetings to propose areas ripe for
scientific and technical research and development
collaboration with the United States. The group
includes former Fulbright beneficiaries and other
Moroccans prominent in science and technology-
oriented businesses and institutions, and familiar
with U.S. society, science and technology
capabilities, and business culture. The group also
includes representatives of most of the Government
of Morocco (GOM) entities that deal with research
and development, as well as the major private
sector actors in developing and commercializing
science and technology products in most fields.
The Minister of Commerce, Industry and New
Technologies, Ahmed Reda Chami, has been supporting
the group and providing his input into its
deliberations and conclusions.

3. (U) In a January 14 presentation to Public
Affairs Counselor and EconOff, the leaders of the
group, Amine Bensaid and Si Benasser Alaoui,
academics in computer sciences and agronomy,
respectively, summarized the working group's
conclusions. In discussions with Embassy officers,
the MFAA representatives highlighted Morocco's
strengths in collaboration with the U.S.,
emphasizing "win-win" opportunities for both
countries, and noted the particular niches that the
working group identified as ripe for cooperation.

--------------------------
WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE U.S.?
--------------------------

4. (U) Morocco is already engaged in long-term
efforts to put science and technology research and
development efforts to use in its economic growth
goals. With its young demographic profile, high
urban and youth unemployment, and generally high
level of capacity in science and technology,
Morocco is poised to take full advantage of
cooperation with the U.S. in a way that showcases
the benefits of partnership. The U.S. has already
committed hundreds of millions of dollars to
Morocco's economic development through USAID and
the Millennium Challenge Account Compact, and
scientific and technical exchanges already take
place, notably in health sciences and past
successes in agronomy. Efforts to incorporate more
science and technology cooperation will build on
the significant U.S. investment in Morocco's growth
and enhance its results in job creation and poverty
reduction.

5. (U) Moroccan researchers are conducting
innovative research in areas with direct links to
improving economic development. Morocco has major
research programs in phosphates (for fertilizer and
energy uses), agronomy and green energy, for
example. Morocco also boasts world-leading
potential in wind, solar and other renewable energy
potential, putting it in a position to translate
into immediate progress toward development goals
any technology and innovation resulting from
collaboration with the U.S.

6. (U) Morocco is the only country in the world

that has concluded free trade agreements with both
the U.S. and the European Union, opening the
potential for tremendous market access for the
results of commercialization of research and
development. Morocco is also a gateway to the rest
of Africa, particularly francophone West and
Central Africa, and has deep ties of collaboration
and assistance with other African countries in the
economic, science, health and technology fields.
These include assistance to develop potable water
distribution systems, electric grid management
technical assistance, diffusion of agricultural
techniques and know-how, and training of thousands
of African students who attend Moroccan technical
and scientific institutions. Thus, any U.S.
investment in developing or transferring to Morocco
technologies and knowledge could be further
diffused from Morocco to many developing African
countries, multiplying the benefits.

------------------------------
PROMISING AREAS OF COOPERATION
------------------------------

7. (U) The MFAA-convened group suggested that
Morocco respond to the President's invitation by
identifying "low-hanging fruit:" specific niches
for cooperation that correspond to both the areas
the President highlighted and Morocco's priority
axes for research and development. The group
specified possibilities in agriculture,
aeronautics, energy, health, phosphates, water and
education. The group identified Morocco's needs,
including strengthening capacity in areas needed to
bring research to market such as prototyping and
venture capital, reinforcing the interactions
between private enterprise and research, and
building entrepreneurship and creation of
innovation-driver small and medium enterprises.

8. (U) Potential areas of cooperation in
agriculture include crop and seed development,
particularly in relation to drought-resistant or
low-water varieties, germplasm and gene-bank
biodiversity conservation, pesticide and fertilizer
development and management, as well as water
management. The group also diagnosed a gap in
Moroccan researchers' understanding of the U.S.
model of intellectual property protection in
relation to plants. Agricultural cooperation, the
participants concluded, should also be aimed toward
advancing food security and adapting to climate
change. USAID-funded training in agriculture and
agronomy during the 1960s and 1970s enabled Morocco
to establish university teaching and research
departments that include a sizable percent of
African students. Renewed partnership with these
programs (particularly as the original U.S.-trained
scholars begin to retire) would be a means of
promoting food security and a "green revolution for
Africa." The Embassy's Foreign Agricultural
Service already plans to use U.S. Department of
Agriculture exchange programs such as the Norman
Borlaug Science and Technology Fellowship to
provide technical assistance and capacity building
to address climate change and food security.


9. (U) Morocco's growing aerospace sector provides
another niche for U.S. cooperation, building on
Moroccan research in materials sciences and
nanotechnology. Foreign direct investment in
aeronautics firms has been growing for several
years, and Moroccan companies in this sector have
been working their way up the value chain.
Participants believe that U.S. companies would
benefit from increased cooperation and co-
development of products and technologies with
Moroccan companies.

10. (U) Morocco brings several advantages to
energy collaboration. It has recently concluded a
long-term energy strategy that emphasizes renewable
energy development, including the new USD 9 billion
solar energy generation plan, as well as efforts
currently under way to grow wind generation
resources by over 2000 megawatts before 2020.
Private companies and government-sponsored
researchers are focusing on solar, wind and other
technologies, including a strong emphasis on algal-
derived biofuels in partnership with a DOE-
supported U.S. company. Morocco has some of the
world's most promising resources for solar, wind
and algal green energy development, and also shares
challenges to these technologies with other
developing and Muslim-majority countries, including
water scarcity. U.S. efforts to collaborate with
Morocco will be met with willing partners, domestic
investment and a strong potential to diffuse the
benefits of partnership with other African and
Muslim-majority nations.

11. (U) The working group participants highlighted
previous studies that identify a financially viable
niche for Moroccan health sciences in the area of
medical diagnostics, particularly using stem cell
technologies. Moroccan health researchers benefit
from long-standing international collaborations,
including with the U.S., and participants were
confident that U.S. biomedical/biotechnology firms
would find profitable opportunities to partner with
Moroccan researchers in these areas.

12. (U) Morocco's dominance in world phosphates
reserves offers another potential area of
collaboration. Private and public-sector
scientists already pursue wide-ranging research in
phosphates. This expertise includes ore processing
and beneficiation, as well as chemistry research to
optimize fertilizers and contribute to food
security. In addition, researchers study
phosphates' non-conventional possibilities related
to biomaterials as well as energy, such as uranium
extraction from phosphate deposits, and the use of
phosphate compounds in advanced electrochemical
batteries.

13. (U) Morocco offers a fruitful field for water
collaboration, presenting both the challenges of
arid/desert regions and increasing dryness from
climate change, and the advantage of experienced
water resource managers and operators. Moroccan
agencies and institutions have a history of working
and sharing expertise with other African water
agencies, and the national water office has just
opened an International Institute of Water to
enhance this mission of diffusing know-how to
water-stressed African countries. The impact of
U.S. cooperation with this institute or other water
researchers will be multiplied by diffusion through
Morocco to other developing nations.

14. (U) Finally, participants noted similar U.S.
and Moroccan needs in education, particularly a
deficiency in students pursuing studies in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The group suggested that U.S. and Moroccan
researchers could collaborate on efforts to promote
STEM study, as well as techniques to support STEM
pedagogy. Participants further highlighted common
interest in leveraging technology to improve STEM
instruction in rural areas (for example through
distance learning to supplement local teachers'
capabilities) and directed efforts to increase
girls' participation and learning in these fields.

-----------------------------------------
NEED FOR URGENCY: WE'RE NOT THE ONLY ONES
-----------------------------------------

15. (SBU) Comment: This proposal, while
emphasizing the positive aspects of Morocco's
capabilities and prospects, tracks well with
evaluations we have heard from visiting USG
scientists, corporations and other experts in
research and development. Mission Morocco is eager
to facilitate expanded science and technology
cooperation with USG, academic and private sector
partners to bring about the President's vision of
partnership. While our interlocutors have been
universally enthusiastic about the prospect of
increased cooperation in science and technology
since the President's Cairo speech, some are
warning that the U.S. needs to show concrete
results soon to avoid disappointment from missed
expectations. In many ways, U.S influence in
Morocco pales in comparison to that of the EU,
given its proximity, market size, trade flows and
the international presence of European countries
and companies. Morocco's historical and linguistic
ties with France and Spain, mean that Moroccans
often naturally incline to international
collaboration with those countries, despite their
deep respect for U.S. scientific and technological
know-how.

16. (SBU) Comment Continued: In addition, in some
of the most promising areas for "win-win"
collaboration, other countries are much more active
than the U.S. at soliciting Moroccan partnership.
For example, while Morocco is planning to spend up
to USD 9 billion to build solar energy generation
stations and has actively sought U.S. government
and private sector interest in technology
development and building, Germany has been much
more active in outreach to researchers in the
renewable energy sector, funding technical
conferences and research exchanges to build
relationships. The Mission strongly recommends
early outreach from the U.S. governmental and non-
governmental science and technology community to
forge collaborations and partnerships with the best
Moroccan minds and institutions in these promising
areas. End Comment.

KAPLAN

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