Jul. 1, 2021


Hussain Al Salmi

Oman

Hussain Al Salmi

CEO, Oman Educational Services (OES)

“In line with the Oman Vision 2040, we are creating two new programs—one in cybersecurity and one in AI.”

BIO

Dr. Hussain Al Salmi is working as the CEO of Oman Educational Services LLC (OES), a company that owns the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), Finland Oman School (FOS), History of Science Centre (HSC), and several other subsidiaries (non-educational) companies that are working in Information Technology, Engineering, Energy, Green Hydrogen industry, and Consultancy. Dr. Hussain holds another position as the Acting Rector and Deputy Rector for Administration and Finances at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). Prior to his work at OES he worked as a Diplomatic Attaché in Oman's Embassy in Saudi Arabia for almost 12 years and during that period he was handling the position of Supervisor of IT Projects in one of the Ministries for 7 years. His academic background comes from law and legal studies. Prior to his position at GUtech, Dr. Hussain Al Salmi completed his PhD in Constitutional and Human Rights Law at Manchester University (UK) and he worked in different areas as researcher, legal consultant, administrative manager, and as a Supervisor of IT projects. He served as a Diplomatic Attaché at the Embassy of Oman in Saudi Arabia (1994-2006). Between 2000 and 2006 he was the Head Supervisor of IT Projects at the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in Oman.


Can you elaborate on the recent activities of OES?

At OES, we had to convert everything to online learning, which taught us a great deal. We did the digital transformation much faster than planned and continued with education online, without any major challenges. At the school level, most of the students were in Muscat, so going online was easy for them. As soon as the Ministry of Education authorized students to come back to campus, we opened again. At first, some were reluctant to return, but after one month everyone shifted. Parents were struggling to supervise their kids while working from home. Up to grade 3, children need a great deal of attention, which is very difficult online. From grade 4 to grade 7, they can work better than any other students online, and they did not struggle. The upper graders—teenagers—did not want to attend online lessons. At the university level, however, some students did not have internet access, because they lived in rural areas, while for some, their internet speed was too slow. Thus, we had to work with the Ministry of Higher Education to make an exemption for those students and postpone their studies for one semester. We assumed many would postpone, but the number was not that high. What is key is our relationship with our partners, at the school level with our Finnish partners and at the university level with our German partners, as we get the best solutions from abroad. It is extremely important to bring students back to campus as they need practical courses. Business or logistics can be done online more than other practical programs such as engineering, sciences, and architecture which need in-person or hands-on training.

OES also created a technology transfer office. What pushed you to do that?

The technology transfer office aims to strengthen the connection between academia with industry. In Oman and the region in particular, this is a challenge. We are oil and gas driven, and we do not have a solid interaction with the industry. The objective of the new office is to have a strong link with the job market, in Oman and beyond, as well as enhance our capabilities when it comes to patent registrations, IP issues, project development and consultancy. It also opens the doors to our students, because they have amazing ideas, though they do not know who can support them. This office looks into their projects, and if they believe they have potential, they will take them further, helping them step by step to make a business out of the idea. As a result, they will not need to find a job, but are creating jobs. It will also be linked to the Oman Hydrogen Center (OHC), which is part of the university, and the Indian Ocean Center. We are working on developing a third center, called the Building Technology Center, which will research building materials and technology, like 3D printing and building printers. We also have a commercial project within the university that will be like a shopping area and a built-in 3D printer. We should start the project by the end of 2021.

What lessons did you learn over the past year while managing the newly created OHC, and what role do you hope it will play in the energy transition?

OHC is a research center focused on green hydrogen. The goal of the center is to raise awareness about green hydrogen and how Oman can benefit from it. This year, we have some research projects with international partners on how to convert grey or blue hydrogen that comes from the oil and gas industry into green hydrogen. These projects will be strategic for the country in the long term. We have a great deal of infrastructure for the oil and gas industry, so it will require a big investment to switch to a green hydrogen infrastructure; however, if we come up with a solution to convert all that infrastructure to be green, instead of building from scratch, it will be better. This center is the only research center on hydrogen in Oman, and we are in the process of a pilot project to create green hydrogen. It is small scale but has the potential for growth. We recently founded the new company called 'Hydrogen Rise LLC.', which is heavily business focused. We own 50% of the company, and Hydrogen Rise AG in Germany owns the other half. We are now launching our first project in Sohar. We have a steel company there that is willing to connect to the plant. Green steel is a trend in Europe that allows you to treat the steel differently. We are in the process in reaching an agreement with the government, then we can start the first project. We need a real project to show people that they can benefit from this. For now, we need a subsidy from the government, because there is a huge price difference between green hydrogen and oil or gas, though in perhaps 10 years it will be cheaper than gas. We have received great interest from private investors, though some are still skeptical because of the size of the investment. That is why we need to create awareness. In the future, we might open a specific program for green hydrogen, connecting academia with this new industry.

What are your objectives for the next 12 months?

In line with the Oman Vision 2040, we are creating two new programs—one in cybersecurity and one in AI. These will be launched soon. We are also thinking of a new program for mining, in addition to introducing PhDs. The Building Technology Center should start as well. We created Eco-House building, which was sponsored by the research council in Oman as competition between all universities in Oman. The success story of the Eco House is in a building generating its own energy and uses mud bricks in an innovative way which are examples of what the new Building Technology Center can work to develop in the future. We want to develop all that we have created as a basis and take OHC to the next level, starting with the pilot project in Sohar.

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