A HELPING HAND

Oman 2020 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

For innovation in Oman to have an impact, there is a need for start-ups, experts, and innovation agencies to act as one ecosystem.

Abdullah Mohammed Al Mahruki

Can you give an overview of IIC's role in Oman and its areas of focus?
IIC was established in 2017 under the Tanfeedh program and mandated to focus on industrial innovation. The primary objective is for IIC to become an enabler for industry to contribute towards economic diversification. We run four specialized programs: the first with the goal of developing human capital in industrial innovation; the second to establish innovative industrial start-ups; the third to support innovation within existing companies; and the fourth to apply the power of innovation to transform one industrial sector every year. All these programs function within a powerful innovation ecosystem which is constantly evolving, so that Oman will witness new generation of innovative entrepreneurs, knowledge-driven SMEs, endorsement of innovation by existing industries, and more competitive and innovative sectors. Innovation is imperative for any nation to progress; therefore, understanding, concepts, and terminologies associated with innovation are important so that innovation can be developed and commercialized to have social, economic, and political impacts.

How do you support the commercialization of innovation, especially those from applied research?
One of our primary services is to support commercialization, which is an extremely important complementary process to bring innovation to the market. We see a great deal of innovations claimed nationally and globally, but they have never reached commercialization and thus will never reach the market. For this reason, we qualify industrial innovation specialists through intensive training so that they understand how to commercialize their innovative projects and capitalize on tools like market intelligence, big data, e-marketing, and market share on a global level. For example, to support sector innovation in F&B, we had to study market trends and perceptions around the world, then we gathered information from Asia, the Gulf, Europe, and Africa, and eventually finalized the potential hundreds of products that can be advantageous to Oman. We developed our own methodology and procedures to support commercialization starting from assessing the readiness of the product to be launched, the business model to follow, and the targeted market.

Can you highlight IIC partnerships and collaborations?
Partnership is a crucial factor when talking about technology transfer and innovation. For innovation to have an impact, there is a need to network with experts and innovation agencies as one ecosystem. We have already listed all potential opportunities that came from the different sectors, especially those that are product and technology oriented to be commercialized. In addition, we are in close collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Manpower, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Al Raffd Fund, and Riyada to support entrepreneurs in commercializing these opportunities.

What is the difference between entrepreneurship and innovation, and how should that be reflected in Oman's economy?
There is a difference between entrepreneurship and innovation. When entrepreneurship is triggered and driven by innovation, it is by far more powerful and competitive. The flash of traditional entrepreneurship that took place in Oman over the last few years resulted in vastly similar SMEs, such as restaurants, transportation, crafts, and beauty salons, some of which ended up in negative competition and failed, which made other entrepreneurs reluctant to pursue in business; however, when it comes to innovation, entrepreneurs are inspired by the competitive advantages and thus, their spirits are high to jump on board, and for that we already seeing extremely promising innovative projects and SMEs.