Telecoms & IT

Pioneering Innovation

QSTP

Qatar is targeting a grand transformation as it aims to transition away from a hydrocarbon based to a knowledge based economy as part of QNV 2030. Central to the success […]

Qatar is targeting a grand transformation as it aims to transition away from a hydrocarbon based to a knowledge based economy as part of QNV 2030. Central to the success of this transformation is the economic diversification of the overall economy through the expansion of industries and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2007, as part of Qatar Foundation, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, established the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). In so doing, Qatar established its first primary incubator for technology development and support services for innovation. Both technology development and innovation services would be focused on the four themes of the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS) announced in 2012: energy, environment, health sciences, and information and communication Technologies. With this, Qatar has created a successful platform since 2007 and recently announced the planned expansion of three new buildings that will offer facilities, services, and investment benefits that will surely contribute to the success of QNV 2030.

The QSTP is located on the north campus of Qatar Foundation’s flagship project, Education City. The park lies only 20 minutes from the West Bay area and 20km from Doha International Airport. The campus provides offices and laborites specifically designed for technology based companies. Companies can lease space in the multi-user buildings, or they can commission the QSTP to build and design their own building. The QSTP offers two main types of facilities: the Innovation Center and two Tech Centers. The Innovation Center is geared towards start-up companies and provides fully-furnished ready-to-occupy offices from 45 square meters and access to meeting rooms, business services, and expert advice. The Innovation Center is also the science park’s communal hub featuring cafes and open public spaces. The Tech Centers are a pair of two-story buildings better suited for medium to large companies. They are able to accommodate both heavily equipped laboratories and modern offices. Spaces are available in increments of 500 sqm. QSTP’s rental charges are competitive with ordinary commercial property in Doha despite the research-grade specification of its buildings and infrastructure.

While the facilities themselves are attractive, a key differentiator of the QSTP is that it is considered a Free Zone with the objective of attracting multinational companies to establish themselves within the park by providing financial and other incentives. If a company bases themselves from the QSTP, they can choose to operate as a local company or as a branch of a foreign company, whichever suits their interests best. If they choose to base themselves as a foreign company, they can maintain 100% foreign ownership, which is a far different dynamic than the 49% they would otherwise get outside the park. Moreover, a company can hire expatriate employees which is usually a challenge considering Qatar’s strict visa regulations. Furthermore, companies do not have to pay taxes and can import goods, equipment, tools, and services into the free zone duty free. Finally, the QSTP offers unrestricted repatriation of capital and profit thereby increasing bottom-line growth of multinational companies invested there. All in all, these benefits create favorable environment for the multinational investor or institute.

A crucial component to the success of QSTP, and QNV 2030, is fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among SMEs along with enticing multinationals to commercialize their technology in Qatar. Part of this challenge is providing the proper financial assistance to the budding entrepreneur or investment capital to the multinational. In recognition of this, QSTP has developed the “Venturing” arm as part of their support programs. The QSTP will begin providing finance at the “proof of concept” stage and the latest it will invest is when companies reach the growth-stage. QSTP’s Proof of Concept Fund provides grants for Qatar-based researchers to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of their innovations. The $30 million New Enterprise Fund supports research institutes, corporations, and entrepreneurs from around the world to commercialize their technology in Qatar. It will make equity investments in start-up companies at the science park from the seed stage through to the early growth stage with individual investments ranging from $500,000 to $3 million. There is also the Technology Venture which is a growth capital fund that invests in established, revenue-generating business involved in technology development. The fund helps companies scale up production, develop new products, build licensing networks, and penetrate international markets.

The QNV 2030 also puts emphasis on building the SME sector into a vibrant and successful economic base not only through finance, but through education. In recognition of that, QSTP has developed two management services in its line of support programs: the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (TIEP) and the Mentoring Program. The TIEP teaches promising entrepreneurs the process of how to get business ideas developed, evaluated, and put into practice. By the end of the nine-month, executive training program, participants will have created a fully developed project plan supporting their innovation in their existing corporation or new venture. In addition to that the QSTP Mentoring Program provides leaders of start-up companies with one-to-one guidance from experienced builders of technology businesses. Managers of SMEs are offered guidance of a professional mentor for 12 months. The Mentoring Program is available to small-to-medium companies (fewer than 250 staff and sales under $50 million) at the science park.

Since its founding in 2007, QSTP has enjoyed a tremendous level of success in not only attracting members, but also having research done on premises. QSTP has reached 95% capacity with more than 40 tenants including major multinationals such as General Electric, Total, Exxon, Microsoft, Shell, Siemens, Rolls-Royce, and Mitsubishi. Very recently, Total and Qatar Petroleum (QP), both members of the QSTP, successfully concluded a joint research project with the objective of using acid stimulation to increase hydrocarbon production from QP’s reservoirs.

In a joint effort by Qatar Mobility Innovations Center and Politecnico di Torino, the QSTP was instrumental in developing a new wireless-based solution to detect and monitor water leakage in underground distribution networks. Within the QSTP premises, General Electric developed SenoBright, a contrast enhanced spectral mammography unit that was approved by the FDA in the US. Due to this repeated success by the QSTP, at the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) World Conference, Managing Director Hamad Al Kuwari announced that the QSTP will expand with three more buildings

The successful implementation of the QSTP has addressed many challenges set forth by the National Vision 2030’s objective of economic diversification. Through its facilities and Free Zone status, QSTP has provided multinationals and locally based companies an ideal platform for developing technology and innovation services in line with the Qatar National Research Strategy. Moreover, the QSTP has pioneered key programs to address financing and education to further incentivize the commercialization of technology and support entrepreneurship and innovation. With this model, QSTP aims to be a leading player in the GCC by attracting major multinationals and spurring innovation by SMEs by nearly doubling its size in the years to come.

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