INCREASING POTENTIAL

Kuwait 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Samira S. Omar Asem, Director General of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), on commercializing the green innovations coming from R&D initiatives, the role of collaboration across multiple sectors, and projects that we should expect to see more of in the future.

 Dr. Samira S. Omar Asem
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Samira S. Omar Asem was appointed by the Kuwait Council of Ministers as the Director General of KISR in 2016. She has led many projects to conserve biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and promote sustainable agriculture in Kuwait. In addition to her work at KISR, Dr. Asem is also a Research Fellow at The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for the Advancement of Sciences in the Developing Countries and a receiver of many honors and awards including the 2016 Medal Lectures honored by TWAS in November 2015. Dr. Asem holds a PhD in wild land resource science from the University of California, Berkeley.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of KISR. What are some policy milestones that have helped shape the Kuwaiti economy?

R&D is the root of technological advancement and a driver for global growth across the board. Our research is very specific and tailored to the needs of our country; our industries, public health, food, and our economic strength. In our mandate, we have outlined the way we function within our strategic program, and in which sectors. Currently, we focus on food, energy, agriculture, and the environment. Ultimately, our clients should benefit from our expertise and the solutions we find, which are often related to industry-specific problems. Sometimes, however, there is no demand from the market and our scientists work on their own long-term visions to increase the potential of our nation, for example to improve productivity in our commodity-output. For aquaculture, we were the founders of research and development. This knowledge building has been an important driver for our fishery sector, focusing on the aquaculture of the most economically viable fish. Parallel to that, we have been working on the preservation of our desert resources and production of our native plants and seeds. For the latter, we can see growing demand and the industry is maturing for export. We have also been active in the energy sector, looking to improve our ways of producing our output. In all of our research projects, we think about the business side and how we can improve the life of the community at large. For example, in our fresh water project, we implement KISR technology and know-how to produce on a semi-commercial scale. This plant does not compete with the market; it complements it with another source of local water.

The successful completion of projects often relies on collaboration, and KISR has established several international partnerships. What characterizes these partnerships?

Our focus is primarily on the petroleum sector, and we closely collaborate with the relevant ministries there; the Ministry of Electricity and Water, Oil, Commerce, and also the Environmental Public Authority. We aim to collaborate as much with these local governmental organizations as we do with the private sector. Similarly, we have international partnerships and these expand our horizons from national to international interests. We have committed ourselves to focusing more on the global humanitarian benefits of our research. Although we have ideas in our institute, we still need the skills and capabilities of other academic and research organizations to execute them.

What are some of your current projects?

In the petroleum sector, we are looking at solutions for corrosion in the production process. This has been one of our ongoing research projects, but we are now using nanotechnology to reduce corrosion of pipelines, and this has great potential value for the industry—not just for petroleum, as these can be used for water as well. We are developing special products that will reach pilot stage soon. We have submitted these for patents, and we are also publishing in academic journals. With the help nanotechnology, we are able to reduce the temperature in the production process, and thus prolong the lifespan of the equipment. This is considered a breakthrough and has potential to fuel developments for alternative energy sources. For example, with improved technology, houses can become better at conserving energy and water. This requires a mentality change amongst the housing authority to start thinking about environmental issues, and we are working on a model to adopt this. Furthermore, we are looking at a new location for our fishery research station. An area has been allocated to establish commercial production of water fisheries and renewable energy, both commercial and semi-commercial. This project will keep us occupied for the next 10 years.