The pilot plant for producing titanium dioxide (TiO2, widely used as a pigment is paint and cosmetics is being built by Laugfs, a Sri Lankan business group, using technology developed at SLINTEC.
Ilmenite or iron titanium oxide (FeTi03) bearing beach sands from Sri Lanka's Pulmudai coast is a rich source for producing titanium, but at the moment it is exported raw for about 250 dollars a tonne, Amaratunga said.
Titanium dioxide pigment sells for about 4,000 dollars a tonne.
Amaratunga said if the pilot plant would be the first stage in developing a manufacturing process to produce pigment at globally competitive prices.
Amaratunga was speaking at a forum organized by Sri Lanka's Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank and National Science Foundation, a state entity coming under the island's science ministry.
IPS chief Saman Kelegama said driving innovation will be a key factor in boosting long term growth.
SLINTEC is state and private sector funded research agency operated with private sector involvement. Sri Lanka's National Science Foundation, a state entity is in a 50/50 partnership with private firms.Brandix and MAS which has interests in apparel, Dialog Axiata in telecoms, Hayleys in agriculture and Loadstar, rubber products have invested in SLINTEC.
Amaratunga said in countries such as the US, a newly developed process or invention would be commercialized in stages through licensing to a private company.
He said SLINTEC was not just another state entity but a partnership oriented to commercialize research so that people could use them.
Usually a start-up, which will develop the process, get further venture capital financing, and finally go public when it is producing and getting revenue from actual sales.
SLINTEC has also licensed a nanotechnology based process that optimizes fertilizer, to India's Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd, of Hyderabad.
Researchers at SLINTEC had developed a process where nitrogen and potassium bearing fertilizers are loosely bound with a phosphate compound to slow its release.
Amaratunga said two thirds to three fourths of chemical fertilizers are dissolved and washed away without plants using them.
But initial field trials have shown that rice yields have gone up, despite using less than the prescribed amounts of fertilizer, using urea and potassium fertilizer modified by the SLINTEC process.