The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established as a statutory body in 1998 as successor to the Natural Resources Energy & Science Authority (NARESA), through an Act of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. The functions of the Foundation are to initiate, facilitate and support basic and applied scientific research by scientists in universities, research institutes and industry through the award of research grants. It aims to strengthen scientific research potential, develop natural resources, promote human welfare, and train research personnel.
The Foundation also fosters the interchange of scientific information amongst scientists in Sri Lanka and foreign countries through publication of lead journals and organizing workshops/meetings/seminars. It awards scholarships and fellowships for scientific work, maintains a comprehensive register of data on the scientific and technical resources in Sri Lanka and works at popularizing science amongst the general public by funding programmes for that purpose. A technology watch centre, that engages in foresight studies, disseminates information on technology advances and promotes industry-university interaction, is located at the NSF. Further, the NSF serves as the national focal point for many overseas scientific bodies and also has the mechanism to act as a facilitating or coordinating body for scientific interactions between local and international organizations.