Qatar Science & Technology Park Unveils Roadmap for Middle East “Knowledge Economy”

Published January 31st, 2006 - 02:37 GMT

Qatar is championing industry-based R&D in its drive to establish a knowledge economy in the Middle East.  Speaking at the “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future” conference in Doha yesterday, Qatar Science & Technology Park laid out its strategy of attracting companies to Qatar to develop their technology, and helping entrepreneurs to launch new technology businesses.
Addressing the conference President Bill Clinton stressed the importance of economic development in the Middle East.  “If you look at Weill Cornell, Texas A&M and Georgetown, you have the building blocks of a diversified economy” he said, referring to the universities at Qatar Foundation in Doha.
Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future, organised by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, focuses on strategies for economic development in the Middle East.
Ben Figgis, Marketing Manager of Qatar Science & Technology Park, explained that historically there has been little R&D or technology entrepreneurship in the Arabian Gulf, with the economy being dominated by big petroleum projects and state-owned enterprises.  Governments in the region have recently started to look for ways to diversify beyond oil and create high-skill jobs.  Qatar’s approach has been to invest deeply in education and science, and at the same time encourage the private sector to play a bigger role.
“We’re taking a two-pronged approach at Qatar Science & Technology Park” explained Figgis.  “First, we’re building an attractive environment and incentives for companies to develop their technology in Qatar.  Second, we’re setting up a business incubator to help technology start-ups get off the ground.”
Technology development is a proven tool for spurring economic growth.  Research by ANGLE, the international consulting and venturing firm appointed to manage Qatar Science & Technology Park, shows that start-up companies at UK science parks launch nearly twice as many new products, and apply for almost twice as many patents, as those located elsewhere.
Companies are being attracted to the science park by free-trade zone incentives such as tax breaks and full ownership rights, as well as links with universities.  As part of the renowned Qatar Foundation, its neighbours include campuses of Carnegie Mellon, Weill Cornell, Georgetown and Texas A&M universities, plus a planned billion-dollar teaching and research hospital.  Qatar Science & Technology Park is designed to link the research efforts of these institutes with industry, and to provide jobs for their growing pipeline of students.
“It’s a long term vision, but in a few years we fully expect to see technology breakthroughs by companies and universities in Qatar, which are then commercialised with companies at the science park” said Figgis.  “The academic side is already well underway at Qatar Foundation, and right now Qatar Science & Technology Park is building the environment for the companies and entrepreneurs.”
He said international companies have already committed more than $100 million of investment in research and commercialisation at Qatar Science & Technology Park over the next five years.
Companies to have already joined Qatar Science & Technology Park include EADS, ExxonMobil, GE, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Shell and Total.  As it nears its opening in early 2007, it expects to also attract medium-sized companies and to start filling its business incubator.  While the science park is open to technology development in any industry, it cites gas, petrochemicals, IT, water, environment, healthcare and aviation as being sectors most relevant to Qatar’s economy and society.
The presentation by Qatar Science & Technology Park took place on the second day of the Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future conference.  The conference, organised by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, addresses economic issues in the Middle East including energy security and the growing Asian role in the petroleum market.  It also deals with public-private partnerships, development of small-to-medium sized enterprise, and education.  The conference concluded today.

Qatar Science & Technology Park is a research and commercialisation hub designed to spur the growth of Qatar’s knowledge economy.  It provides an attractive location for companies from around the world to develop and commercialise their technology, and a business incubator to help entrepreneurs launch new technology ventures.  As part of the renowned Qatar Foundation, the science park connects its tenants with neighbouring campuses of universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Weill Cornell.  Qatar Science & Technology Park is a free-trade zone, allowing its tenants to be wholly foreign owned and free from tax.  Its current tenants include EADS, ExxonMobil, GE, Microsoft, Shell and Total.


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