The global economy may be grinding to a halt, but investment from China continues to pour into Costa Rica.

Days after President Oscar Arias laid the first stone of the new, $83 million, China-financed National Stadium, the eastern power announced this week it would help finance a new science and technology park in Costa Rica. The park, the location of which has yet to be determined, will be modeled after a similar technology and development hub in Shanghai, China, which Arias visited in October 2007. According to Competitiveness Minister Jorge Woodbridge, the aim of the project is to develop Costa Rica’s potential in several fields of technology, industry and science.

The project aims to “improve the level of competitiveness in the country,” especially in areas of innovation and productivity, Woodbridge said.

While some reports have estimated the project will cost $65 million, the minister said such projections were premature.

“We don’t have an exact cost yet because (the project) will be divided into five phases,” he said. “This first (phase) will have a cost of $20 million, and includes biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and mechatronics.”

Nanotechnology involves engineering at a molecular scale, while mechatronics refers to a combination of mechanical and electronics engineering.

Woodbridge added that the amount of China’s investment is currently under negotiation, and the project would include financing and investment from Costa Rica’s private sector as well. The project will also be a collaborative effort with the country’s four public universities, the Technology Institute of Costa Rica, National University, University of Costa Rica and State University at a Distance.

Two locations, one in the eastern suburb of Curridabat and the other in Heredia, north of San José, are under consideration as potential sites for the park. Woodbridge said a time frame for development would be given once a location is selected.

By Patrick Fitzgerald