Expert Eye: Qatar’s quest to innovate for the future
Yosouf Abdulrahman Saleh, Executive Director of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), discusses the country’s drive to become a world leader in research and innovation
While many countries have recognised the important role of research and innovation in national development and growth, only few have strategically invested in shaping the emergence of a viable and impactful ecosystem for research, development, and innovation (RDI).
Qatar is one such country taking ambitious yet confident steps in this regard.
Innovation and technology development are vital to addressing Qatar’s priorities and challenges that also have global resonance – climate change and environmental sustainability, water security, cybersecurity, and precision medicine.
RDI can generate solutions that strengthen Qatar’s sustainability and resilience, make their way into the global marketplace, and directly and positively impact people’s lives.
The economic challenge
Having traditionally thrived on oil and gas, Qatar continues to diversify its economic offering.
This is no simple feat and the country’s approach has been broad-ranging, with strategic investments in sectors spanning education to healthcare. As a nation, we strive to become more sustainable and more self-sufficient. To achieve this, we need to be producers of technology, not just importers. And for all this to happen, fostering a vibrant and productive RDI ecosystem is key.
At a time when many nations have been reducing their funding for RDI, this has allowed us to attract top talent from around the world and accelerate our progress. Whether individual researchers and scientists or major international companies, people are now looking to Qatar as an attractive destination to help them further their careers and businesses. And this is not just because of funds, but also because of our sustained commitment to advanced education, scientific research, and technology development in nationally relevant and globally impactful areas, combined with homegrown expertise and world-class infrastructure – all of which constitute a vibrant RDI ecosystem.
RDI isn’t just something we see as relevant to addressing only domestic challenges. Several projects and initiatives undertaken at QSTP have been specifically launched with a view to addressing challenges that have global relevance too – whether it is reducing carbon emissions, artificial intelligence applications, energy and water management, or developing sustainable facilities.
Our efforts have now been underway for more than a decade and it continues to be as imperative as ever. When an unjust blockade was imposed against Qatar in 2017, it was expected that our economy, society, and individuals would struggle to cope with this. On the contrary, this blockade spurred our growth and enhanced our sustainability. There has been a paradigm shift among the general Qatari population, with increased interest in RDI.
We’re also seeing continuing efforts towards self-sufficiency and innovation emerge from within our communities, academic institutions, as well as businesses across all sectors – whether it’s families growing their own food, advances in sustainable agriculture and food production, to entrepreneurs establishing advanced manufacturing and industrial capabilities for a whole range of domestic products as well as services.
We’re curious, and keen to find new solutions for us and the global community.
A place for innovation to thrive
It was with this outlook that the Qatar Foundation set out 10 years ago to establish a unique place for technology companies, innovators, and entrepreneurs to come together, and for technological development to excel. Qatar Science & Technology Park, part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation (QF RDI), is Qatar’s premier free zone and a global hub for applied research, technology innovation, incubation, and entrepreneurship. As the engine that drives the implementation of RDI, QSTP facilitates the development of new high-tech products and services and supports the commercialisation of market-ready technologies.
Situated in an area larger than 125 football pitches, QSTP is home to, and business partners with several of the biggest global technology companies in the world who are jointly delivering impactful and measurable benefits for Qatar. We aim to increase our commitment to business R&D activities and project our vital role in attracting foreign investment, specifically in the technology sector, as well as promote private investments for our entrepreneurs.
QSTP’s strategic approach toward attracting significant investments in energy, environment, health sciences, and information and communication technology sectors demonstrate the commitment of our partner companies, entrepreneurs, and innovators to support Qatar’s drive toward sustainable economic development and diversification.
Simultaneously, QSTP continues to support the development of startups and has various programmes in place to help them grow and succeed. We have a well-established accelerator programme to provide entrepreneurs the mentoring they need to streamline their ideas and make them commercially viable; our Incubation Centre helps entrepreneurs develop their products and bring them into market; and we offer a tech venture fund to assist startups access seed capital.
The concept is simple – one destination that houses the complete RDI value chain, from ideation to the marketplace.
And it is clear that this remarkable ecosystem supports the coexistence and advancement of both established global companies and flourishing startups. We are proud to have technologies that have been developed here at QSTP experience huge success internationally, like SenoBrightTM, a mammogram technology now used in hospitals around the world.
With past and present projects including the development of low carbon concrete, creation of a cloud-based threat detection system, and testing of solar technologies from around the world, the possibilities and future of QSTP are indeed limitless.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of QSTP this month, we’re also looking ahead.
In the next five years, QSTP will be offering $50 million to support startups and stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Qatar. We encourage the private sector to invest in Qatar’s tech entrepreneurs and continue to prioritise RDI if they are to remain competitive.
We recognise that innovative companies already have this ethos well-embedded into their culture, while others will need to keep pace.
About the Author
Yosouf Abdulrahman Saleh is the Executive Director of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), Qatar’s premier free zone and hub for technology development and innovation. Saleh brings a wealth of expertise to this leadership role from the fields of industrial technology development and applied research. Over the past 24 years, he has held technical, management, and research positions in Qatar’s oil and gas industry. Prior to joining QSTP, he was the Vice President at Qatar Shell Research & Technology Centre where he oversaw its $100 million investment commitment to research, with a specific focus on corrosion in gas plants and CO2 utilisation and water solutions.