HAND IN HAND

Oman 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Leading players are driving a research burst to improve the level of innovation coming out of the Sultanate.

Sayyid Shihab Bin Tariq Al Said

Many of TRC's projects are completed in partnership with private companies. How does this relationship work in terms of funding and operations?

Since its inception by the Royal Decree 54/2005, TRC has been keen to establish partnerships with various sectors; thus, it has representatives from the government, private, and academic sectors on its board. These partnerships have been clearly reflected through the preparation of the National Research Strategy, which helps define the research hurdles and challenges and how to overcome them. TRC's partnerships with the private sector aim to encourage their contributions to the Sultanate's overall research ecology. In recent years, TRC has collaborated with the private sector on a number of joint projects, such as the Ejaad Platform, which acts as a bridge between the industrial and academic sectors.

What are the goals of Innovation Park Muscat (IPM), and from where does it attract the most investment?

Due to its proximity to Sultan Qaboos University, various research centers, the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates, Knowledge Oasis Muscat, and Muscat International Airport, IPM has a crucial role to play in regard to the creation of an enabling environment for researchers and innovators in the Sultanate. IPM promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in the targeted areas, providing an enabling environment for research and innovation in order to contribute to building a knowledge-based economy and strengthen synergies between the government, academia, and the private sector. It also aims to create new job opportunities, create added value for these companies' products, and attract local and foreign investment in the targeted areas. Although initially focused on four key areas—energy, food and biotechnology, health, water and environment—most of the investment received so far by IPM is from oil and gas. IPM has attracted companies from this sector, including SMEs, to invest in research and development. Many interested parties from international markets have also shown interest in conducting research and development here. Through IPM and more broadly, TRC works closely with the oil and gas industry.

How have these partnerships benefited the oil and gas industry?

IPM focuses on four key sectors, of which oil and gas is the pioneering sector for investing in strategic partnerships such as the Oman Institute for Oil & Gas (instOG) and Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute (EORI). The current major operational development in IPM is instOG, a joint venture between Takatuf Oman and Schlumberger Oman. InstOG has invested in a 12,000sqm area of IPM and is focusing on capacity building in the oil and gas industry, signing 25-year renewable contract for career development programs for petro technical professionals. These will certainly increase the capabilities of Omani professionals in the industry.

How does the Oman Research and Education Network (OMREN) system work?

OMREN enables the use of next-generation research networks and services among the research and education community in Oman. This will effectively contribute to the development of innovation, research, education, and international e-collaboration. A strategic partnership between a consortium of higher education institutes and the ICT service provider, OmanTel, OMREN members benefit from the advanced network technology and related infrastructure in Oman and around the world. In addition, they gain access to an ever-growing list of services and collaboration activities designed to meet OMREN's vision and mission. OMREN's partners are constantly investing in enhancing its telecommunications networks, developing smart technologies and innovative solutions that support high-speed communication networks, and linking educational and research institutions to simplify the exchange of information.

What changes does the higher education system in Oman need?

Oman's education system is beginning to promote research and innovation among students and academics. It is important to increase the budget allocated to research at higher education institutions, to direct this research toward national priorities, and to focus on research collaboration between academia and industry.