Oxford Business Group Interview with Omar Ali Al Ansari, Secretary-General, QRDI Council
How Qatar is strengthening its research and innovation ecosystem
How can the implementation of the QRDI 2030 strategy help enhance the local research, development and innovation (RDI) ecosystem?
OMAR ALI AL ANSARI: The QRDI 2030 strategy outlines the country’s goals and acts as a roadmap to further develop the innovation ecosystem, identifying three core transformation elements and four enabling elements. The QRDI Portal is an important first step towards that. Launched in 2021, it offers an opportunity for researchers and innovators to browse thousands of assets and leverage shared resources.
Qatar’s leading institutions can reach a wider audience through the portal by showcasing their infrastructure and collaborating with emerging talent, government and private businesses, and others. The platform optimises synergies across entities in the private sector, government and academia to facilitate the sharing of information, equipment and other resources.
The QRDI Portal also fosters collaboration, enables efficiencies and helps improve the RDI ecosystem. This gives Qatar an opportunity to leverage investments made over the past decade to build robust infrastructure for ICT, ultimately helping to attract talent and encourage local and international companies to establish their RDI activities in the country.
Where do you identify opportunities to increase the contribution of smaller enterprises to RDI and incentivise them to adopt innovative solutions?
AL ANSARI: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an essential component of the private sector. The majority of SMEs in Qatar are in sectors that are not historically technology-intensive, such as trading and services. A 2020 survey by Qatar Development Bank showed that while there is an increasing appetite to harness the benefits of conducting RDI, this is not presently utilised in these sectors.
To leverage this opportunity for development, we aim to support the growth of SMEs in technology-intensive sectors, and to encourage existing SMEs in all sectors to invest in RDI. This will help to improve their products and service offerings, as well as their internal processes.
Supporting SMEs growth will ultimately generate more jobs for local and international talent while also harnessing Qatar’s higher education and knowledge institutes. QRDI will start by offering training programmes and eventually offer other incentives to develop their RDI capabilities.
To what extent is Qatar’s research and innovation ecosystem shaped by partnerships?
AL ANSARI: National and international partnerships are critical to Qatar’s RDI ecosystem. At a national level, one of QRDI Council’s key roles is to foster partnerships across industry, academia and government. By working collaboratively, we can become platforms for innovation. By extension, we increase the number of innovative companies and leverage the abundance of talent and knowledge already available in the country.
At an international level, we create opportunities for global companies to establish their RDI activities in Qatar. We partner with them to test and iterate their innovations and ensure they are ready to go to market. These partnerships with advanced economies and leaders in the field of RDI facilitate knowledge transfer to the domestic workforce, who can in turn apply lessons learned to the local market.
National and international partnerships are a form of diplomacy that strengthen ties and seize mutually beneficial opportunities for all stakeholders.
In what ways can initiatives in the educational, academic and research spheres capitalise on the momentum from the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
AL ANSARI: Education is the cornerstone of the innovation ecosystem. Over the past decade Qatar has invested substantially in this sector, with leading universities now present in the country. Today, students can easily access the education necessary for working in knowledge-intensive and technology-based sectors.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be an opportunity to showcase these advancements; celebrate our scientists, researchers and innovators, and engage with the international academic community. We expect the event will bring visibility to the local ecosystem, which in turn will create demand for innovative solutions in Qatar.
Please find below a link to the interview on the Oxford Business Group's website: