With the launching in 1978 of a free-trade zone north of Colombo, Sri Lanka was able to establish such high-technology enterprises as the manufacture of integrated circuits and of control and relay panels. In 1982, two US electronics manufacturers contracted to build semiconductor assembly plants in the zone. The textile industry, located there, ranked nineteenth in 1985 as a supplier to the United States. In 1987–97, 47 technicians and 191 scientists and engineers per 1 million population were engaged in research and development.
The Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, founded in 1960, is located in Colombo. Also in the city are the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, founded in 1955; Natural Resources, Energy, and Science Authority of Sri Lanka (founded originally in 1968 as the National Science Council); Colombo Observatory, founded in 1907; and the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka, founded in 1976. The country also has research institutes devoted to coconuts, horticulture, medicine, rice, rubber, tea, and veterinary science. The Royal Botanic Gardens was founded in 1821 at Peradeniya, and a natural history museum was founded at Colombo in 1985. Sri Lanka has 13 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 34% of college and university enrollments.