Qatar aims to be a global leader in innovative product development. What are Qatar's competitive strengths in this context, and in which fields is it suited to excel globally?
QTSP is part of a larger family that includes the Qatar Foundation, which is founded upon three main pillars: education, science, and community development. In terms of the science pillar, we have Qatar Foundation Research and Development, of which QSTP is a part, and we add value to that innovation value chain across the whole ecosystem of innovation in Qatar. In terms of Qatar's areas of expertise and competitive advantages, the R&D community has drafted the Qatar National Research Strategy 2012. The strategy is founded on four main pillars, three of which are directly related to QSTP and one to social sciences. The first pillar is energy and environment, the second is computing, and the third pillar is biomedical. We are particularly committed to supporting solutions for important issues in energy security, water security, cyber security, and such health issues as diabetes. Qatar can leverage its long history, legacy, and experience in oil and gas, so that is one of the main areas where we have a competitive advantage and can make a huge impact from a technology and innovation perspective, as well as in terms of eventual commercialization. That of course does not mean that we will only be developing products, innovations, and research in oil and gas. Our research results and research community efforts will guide the way. The outcome of that applied research provides the inlet for the QSTP to take it on the commercial route.
What type of products does the market most need right now?
Identifying what the market needs is challenging. The market ultimately drives itself. Some things are pushed to the market, while other things are pulled by the market. Particularly in ICT, the model of pushing things like software and apps into the market seems to work well. We just finished our second cohort and have begun our third cohort. It is good to see how this program is attracting entrepreneurs with good ideas. Our first cohort had 27 applicants, the second cohort had 53, and the third cohort had 107. Due capacity, we can accept only 15 ideas per cohort, and we have two cohorts per year. The more applicants that we have, the better chance that there will be good ideas. Some projects in the first and second cohort will move into our incubator to take their technology further, and they will receive all the support that QSTP has to offer.
Do you have plans for any more physical expansion or development?
We are currently at 83% occupancy, so there are expansion plans and the construction of our new building, Tech 4, is already underway. Tech 4 is a different style of building workshop, and is designed to cater for heavy and high-vibration equipment, creating more of a workshop environment.
How do you find an ideal balance in terms occupancy between local start-ups and multinational tech players?
Our vision is to be recognized as an international hub for applied research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Once we got the numbers in that endeavor and across different fields, we attracted small start-ups. Our Business Connect event is all about bringing together big companies and start-ups, hosting workshops, fostering dialogue and communication, building connections and networks, and creating synergies. We have always sought that fine balance, because that is the key to success in what we are trying to accomplish.
What is your outlook for QSTP in 2016?
It is going to be a busy year. Oil prices will remain a global and local challenge, which only reinforces our efforts to build a knowledge-based economy. With a knowledge-based economy, we will no longer be beholden to fluctuating commodity prices. We are aware of how important our mission is, and this puts a lot more pressure on us, but this is a good thing. In 2016, we will continue supporting the incubation of start-ups and entrepreneurs, building synergies and partnerships, and working toward the creation of a knowledge-based economy and society.