Day two at the Qatar Annual Research Forum featured numerous oral presentations in the fields of health and biomedical research; energy and environmental research; computing and information technology research, and arts, behavioral and social sciences and humanities research. Speakers were then questioned by judges who encouraged a closer look at what was presented and then gave each a score based on the presentations and the responses. The scores being the basis for awards at the gala dinner later in the evening.
Posters—featuring research spanning the range of sectors—continued to draw attention from participants.
Dropping in on the morning’s energy and environment session, I was able to get an in-depth idea about the state of desalination research in Qatar and some of the hurdles and debates around ways forward. Of great interest was a presentation on wastewater treatment and using the product to restock the aquifers in Qatar. Dr. Mohamed Hamoda, a researcher with years of experience in wastewater treatment and water management in Kuwait, is collaborating with a team here in Qatar and described two massive aquifers in the country that could be refreshed with properly treated wastewater. Through techniques already tested in Kuwait, he said that treated water can be raised to a quality level at or above what would be considered potable. This water, he explained can be plugged back into the ground, which would have an impact since over 95 percent of the water used in Qatar is from desalination.
An afternoon workshop—From Mind to Market—An Overview of R&D Commercialization Processes in the Arab Region—featured expert discussion on commercial viability of projects, available financing options (region specific given international contextual examples), legal and IP challenges in the Arab region, strategies for capitalizing on IP through joint ventures and creating value, and technology development and commercialization in Qatar.
Professor Salim Chahine, of the American University of Beirut, spoke strongly of the country’s need to look carefully at the lack of access to financing as a prominent obstacle to the R&D process. He emphasized supporting small and medium enterprises and startups. He spoke also of private equity and venture capital, how in the US, for example, private funds represent 3.5 percent of GDP while in the Middle East, the setup around these funds is still very young and limits the amount of exit points (selling avenues) once projects reach a certain stage. He also called for initiatives to support entrepreneurs—he cited examples of companies that incubate ideas by bringing entrepreneurs into their platforms, offering them materials and connections to investors.
Mr. Mu’tasem Al-Dmour of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh International and Arab Society for Intellectual Property in Jordan spoke about legal and IP challenges. He said the big challenge facing Arab countries involves a lack of coordination. He specified that little attention has been paid to IP regulations and enforcements and that this is an integral part of any IP regime. The lack of public awareness, he said, contributes to insufficient enforcement of regulations … many people, he said cannot differentiate between IP and trademarks. He said that industries are major players in this.
Mr. Hamad Al-Kowari, of Qatar Science and Technology Park, spoke about “Technology Development and Commercialization in Qatar,” emphasizing and expanding briefly upon QSTP as an example of the nation’s dedication to R&D. He spoke of how all projects are aligned with the Qatar National Research Strategy and how QSTP has managed to draw many of the major players in industry to its free zone platform.
Dr. Ossama Hassanein, of Newbury Ventures and TechWadi, spoke of how to capitalize on IP with specific strategies. One strategy involved gaining a deep understanding of markets. Taking six months to deeply investigate a market before project onset was recommended—he specifically spoke of expected growth rates and margins. Best approach to creating IP, he said, is to create a startup. He emphasized as another key strategy that the increase in value proposition is critical to maximum gains.
These were just a few of hundreds of ideas exchanged at the exciting and enriching forum today. Every year it seems the vision for research in Qatar comes into greater focus.