As part of its goal to nurture innovation and technological development in Qatar, the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) has outlined its plan to build a more digital society. As it pursues this goal, ictQATAR has introduced several initiatives to boost cyber-safety, encourage the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and streamline social services. One of ictQATAR’s major goals, the development of ICT skills in the state, is of unique importance. On a broad level, improving the population’s comfort with new technology is crucial to ensuring that ICT initiatives such as e-government and a national broadband network reach their potential.
START-UP SUPPORT: The Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) has been at the forefront of these efforts in the state, offering various opportunities to students and entrepreneurs interested in commercialising their technological innovations. In order to bridge ICT and business education, QSTP created the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme (TIEP), a nine-month executive education course. The overarching goal of TIEP is to offer participants useful skills for getting technology-based ventures off the ground. In addition to educational opportunities, QSTP is also endowed with a number of grants to provide seed funding for local innovators. One such source of funding is the New Enterprise Fund, with some $30m set aside to provide start-up capital for companies focused on developing new technologies.
THE RIGHT SKILLS: Institutions in Education City, a Qatar Foundation initiative located on the outskirts of Doha aimed at promoting education and research and home to satellite campuses of some of the world’s most prestigious universities, as well as other educational and research organisations, also providing ways to commercialise local ideas for tech start-ups. Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar (VCUQ atar) announced the launch of its Design Entrepreneurship Network in May 2012. The network aims to teach design entrepreneurs skills necessary for starting an enterprise, and provides them with early stage funding and access to exhibition and retail space. Funding opportunities will be available to students and entrepreneurs to facilitate the creation of proofs of concept – the evidence that a product, technology or information system is viable and capable of solving an organisation’s particular problem. In this way, the programme’s founders hope to eliminate some barriers to entry that might discourage projects from reaching their full potential.
“We want to support a generation of designers by creating a thriving, vibrant and sustainable design sector for Qatar,” Roger Griffiths, the director of design entrepreneurship and industry affiliations at VCUQ atar, said at the launch. “Sustained economic improvements are best achieved through cultural change: promoting an entrepreneurial spirit and behaviour that is not inhibited by over regulation and procedures.”
Qatar University is also taking steps to create a framework to guide technology business ideas. Programming mobile apps is a high priority. “Innovation of applications needs to be institutionalised. Otherwise, individuals in this high-end knowledge space will continue to view developing innovative concepts as a mere hobby,” Adnan Abu-Dayya, the CEO of the Qatar Mobility Innovations Centre (QMIC), told OBG. QMIC, established by Qatar University and QSTP, works to create a local community of developers who can advance the design and adoption of wireless systems, including mobile apps. One of the main challenges for Qatar’s ICT sector, Abu-Dayya said, is prompting the transition to a more consumer-oriented mentality in product development. QMIC is working to advance that transition by providing systems that can formalise wireless technology and mobile apps creation.
Harnessing the power of ideas could do much to kick-start the growth of a larger ICT sector in the state.
By providing innovators with education, facilities and seed funding, leaders aim to reduce risks for tech start-ups while at the same time building an environment that is increasingly friendly to these enterprises.
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