Innovation agenda a key focus for GCC governments, says GPCA
Regional governments have put innovation front and center on their national agenda, as evidenced by the growing R&D budgets in the Arabian Gulf, said the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).
With Saudi Arabia and Qatar making up the top 40 investors in research and development worldwide in 2014, according to a recent study by US research group Batelle, the region’s sizeable revenues are now being earmarked into significant scientific endeavours. According to data compiled by Batelle, Qatar devotes 2.8% of its GDP to R&D, a level similar to that of the US or Germany. Saudi Arabia, although impressive among its GCC peers, comes in at just 0.3% of GDP.
“Attempts to drive innovation in the GCC are still at an early stage. But as countries increase R&D spending, the results will have a huge impact on non-oil,” said Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA. “A similar trend can be seen in the GCC’s petrochemical industry. To sustain their global competitiveness, GCC chemical producers are striving for technological excellence, building world-class production facilities and nurturing local, innovative capability. The mushrooming of innovation centers and technology parks over the last few years across the GCC States is a positive indication that even the chemical industry is poised for substantial technological development.”
Patent grants from the GCC in chemistry have seen a five-fold increase in the last decade, as per statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization; in 2013, 288 chemical patents were granted to applicants from the Arabian Gulf, up from 48 patents in 2004. Together with IT and electronics, the petrochemical industry represents the major share of patent activities over the last five years. Between 2005 and 2012, the average share of chemical patents in total patent grants for the GCC was 53%, while worldwide the average was 14%.
“It is possible that the next technological leap for the petrochemical industry is formulated by an engineer in Abu Dhabi, a scientist in Doha or a researcher in Riyadh or Dhahran City,” continued Dr. Al-Sadoun. “In the future, producers will need to focus on providing the funding and into developing the minds behind the research. Scientific innovation, after all, occurs when the finances and brains converge.”
The strategies that drive research and innovation will be a key focus of discussion at the upcoming 2nd GPCA Research & Innovation Summit. The key note address at the conference will be delivered by Prince Dr. Turki Bin Saud Bin Mohammed Al Saud, President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Tehcnology (KACST). Other speakers include Dr. Ernesto Occhiello, Executive Vice President, Technology and Innovation, Sabic; and Ahmad O. Al Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer, Saudi Aramco.