Interview: Nawal Chraibi

What can be done to improve the local production chain of renewable energy products?

NAWAL CHRAIBI: The strategic orientation of Morocco’s renewable supply chain is essentially defined by industrialists and foreign investors who, at various levels, demand innovative products and services. This demand is cross sectoral. For example, in 2016 the National Agency for the Development of Renewables and Energy Efficiency required the development and valuation of microalgae and algae biofuels, whereas the National Railways Agency needed flood detection systems for the railway network. Consequently, research centres work hand in hand with industries, not only to meet demand but also to add value to the sector and contribute to the country’s regional competitive advantage.

How does research and development (R&D) contribute to the country’s renewables sector?

CHRAIBI: R&D in green biotechnologies made Morocco a pioneer in the development of biofuel from non-agricultural resources, particularly microalgae. However, research carried out in the field of biodiesel, and renewables in general, always requires international collaborative research. The fruits of this research will benefit the country in the long term. Moreover, the production of clean fuel from alternative resources will not only preserve Morocco’s biodiversity, but also revitalise the debate on clean urban transport. Apart from the highly technical aspects of R&D, a point that can’t be overemphasised is the social dimension,”

What sorts of administrative or financial constraints are experienced when filing patents in Morocco?

CHRAIBI: Despite efforts to improve legislation for the introduction of patent examination, financial constraints remain a major obstacle to the promotion of patent research. The absence of industries capable of absorbing inventions, and the lack of state and private financing, discourage the emergence of a class of business-orientated inventors. Other limitations include the lack of firms specialised in drafting patent applications and the cost of their services. Today the challenge is not so much to file patents but to initiate technological transfer through the transference of operating licences and start-up creations.

How would you describe the biggest market demands in the country’s health sector?

CHRAIBI: Given that tuberculosis, hepatitis and cardiovascular diseases are still prevalent in Morocco, current advances in medical biotechnology have to be channelled into developing low-cost diagnostic products for these diseases. Diagnostic kits for these diseases are currently being validated by Ministry of Health bodies. On the other hand, we have also seen recent research initiatives on biosimilars, a field with high potential not being fully exploited in our country.

In which sectors does Morocco currently possess a competitive advantage in the region?

CHRAIBI: Morocco has made worthy efforts in sectors such as renewable energies, automotive vehicles, aeronautics and agrifoods. Further R&D in these fields will help Morocco to maintain and increase its competitive advantage in these areas. Moreover, the country is rich in phosphate, which represents a major advantage on a global scale. In this regard, it is pivotal to be highly flexible in the recruitment and management of human resources, and this facility should be exploited to attract the best skills at the local level. This does not only entail relying heavily on the Moroccan diaspora or foreign researchers, but that research centres also build a core of experienced researchers with a market orientation. Consequently, the country primarily has a competitive advantage in terms of human capital. It is essential to provide researchers with sufficient incentives to stay in the country, or to come back from abroad, in order to exchange best practices with international experts.