While Qatar’s higher education institutions have long been at the forefront of development in the region, and in some fields the world, the country has recently initiated plans to accelerate […]
While Qatar’s higher education institutions have long been at the forefront of development in the region, and in some fields the world, the country has recently initiated plans to accelerate its research, development, and innovation (RDI) initiatives to the next level. The Qatar Foundation is leading efforts to elevate the country to a global destination for RDI, seeking to attract both high levels of investment and ambitious entrepreneurs to create practical solutions to challenges faced by societies around the world.
While the blockade may be coming to an end, the positive effects it had on catalyzing a self-sustaining and entrepreneurial spirit in the country are here to stay. The Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is working to support and accelerate this new innovative momentum in the country. Since its inauguration in March 2009, more than QAR4.3 billion has been invested in RDI by international companies operating in the free zone and business park, which hosts firms like Cisco, Microsoft, Google, and Siemens. More than 85% of available space at QSTP is occupied by tech companies operating in a variety of fields, and several of such companies are Qatari. Among these are the Qatar Genome Program, an ambitious project aiming to sequence the genomes of all 350,000 Qataris in the country with the ultimate aim of developing precision medicine applications, and the Qatar Computing Research institute, often ranked among the top computer research facilities in the world and focused on finding solutions to large-scale computing challenges inhibiting national growth and development.
The country’s universities are working alongside organizations to promote RDI and spearhead solutions. A number of local universities have recently forged technology partnerships with international organizations or firms. In early December 2020, Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese information and communication technology giant Huawei. The partnership will facilitate greater research collaboration and knowledge exchange, as well as internship opportunities for university students and funding. Promoting student engagement is at the core of the partnership; Students enrolled in the College of Science and Engineering at HBKU will be eligible to take part in Huawei’s “Seeds for the Future“ campaign and its ICT Skills Competition, and the firm’s Huawei ICT Academy at the university will offer courses to students and support services to educational institutes across the country. Additionally, HBKU staff members will make an annual visit to Huawei facilities in China to work on joint RDI initiatives focusing on artificial intelligence and 5G networks. Universities in Qatar are also working on FDI developments in the sciences. Also in December 2020, Qatar University and UNESCO announced the establishment of a UNESCO Chair in Marine Sciences at Qatar University’s Environmental Science Center. The chair is the first of its kind in the MENA region, and will explore a range of topics, including climate change, Shamal winds and swells, Arabian Gulf circulation, marine pollution and management, ocean acidification, and anthropogenic impacts on the Gulf’s ecosystems. Qatar’s geography, a peninsula being almost entirely surrounded by water, makes it an ideal location for RDI in marine sciences, a field which is the oldest division of the university’s Environmental Science Center. The university’s Sea Lab as well as its Janan Research Vessel have already produced distinguished research in the field. Qatar’s Global Water Sustainability Center, a partnership between Qatar Science and Technology Park and ConocoPhilips, is also focused on preserving the marine environment surrounding the country, developing technologies to aid in water management and protection in the oil and gas industry.
A key aspect of the 2030 Qatar National Vision is developing the country into a knowledge economy. By many indicators, the country is well on its way, with young Qataris at the university and even high school level contributing to the nation’s fast-growing RDI reputation. At the 2020 International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition in Malaysia, Qatar University’s Young Scientists Center took home six international prices through four scientific projects. Among the winners was pair from the College of Engineering whose project explored polymer membranes in wastewater treatment, and another high school aged duo whose project exploring improving soil quality through hydrogel sensors won them a gold medal. A third duo, from Qatar Science and Technology School, won a gold medal for their project on composite nanofibers for electronic devices.