Interview: Hamad Al Ibrahim
How is QF R&D continuing its commitment to Qatar’s R&D sector given reduced state revenues?
HAMAD AL IBRAHIM: Despite challenging economic times, QF R&D, through Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), remains fully committed to fostering original, competitively selected research that has tangible social and economic impact for Qatar, and supports the nation’s transition to a sustainable and diversified economy.
This commitment has never wavered, regardless of fiscal circumstances. What QF R&D has done is adjust the focus of QNRF’s National Priorities Research Programme (NPRP), which has now entered its 10th cycle of supporting basic, applied, and translational research and experimental development that addresses Qatar’s primary needs and its Research Grand Challenges: energy security, water security, cybersecurity and health care. It is intended to promote collaboration between the public and private sector, and incentivise co-funding and a more cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approach to research and innovation. Through this approach, members of Qatar’s research community will have the opportunity to truly target their efforts towards addressing national priorities and “hotspot” areas where there is scope for impact, and engage with end-users in industry and the public and private sectors.
However, the new NPRP model is not merely a product of the changing economic landscape. It is a natural progression and evolution of this unique programme, which, in the 10 years since its establishment, has received more than 5000 proposals, supported more than 1000 research projects, and enabled more than 500 research collaborations across 50 countries.
How is the overall strategy for QSTP changing to better support Qatar’s R&D ecosystem?
AL IBRAHIM: As Qatar’s primary hub for technology-based innovation, QSTP has been central to building a research and technology development ecosystem in Qatar. Now, through its refreshed vision of becoming a high-tech business park, QSTP will be better positioned to support the cultivation of another ecosystem – one focused on product development, entrepreneurship and the creation of new start-ups – and become an integral part of the global innovation landscape. This vision comes from the need for Qatar to have the physical and intellectual infrastructure that enables the research and technology it develops and funds to reach the global marketplace. It will allow QSTP to enhance Qatar’s capability to contribute to the regional and global tech industry, by sponsoring the development of viable, home-grown products and services, and providing invaluable support to the private sector in the sphere of innovation and product development.
What steps is QF R&D taking to develop Qatar’s intellectual property (IP) framework?
AL IBRAHIM: QF R&D established its Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (IPTT) in 2014, in recognition of IP’s importance to economic development. IPTT has produced Qatar’s first IP policy; is building the nation’s IP portfolio, which now contains almost 400 inventions, with invention disclosures increasing since IPTT’s establishment; tracks the progress of ideas and innovation throughout the R&D life cycle; and provides IP management and commercialisation services for prominent Qatari institutions, including Qatar University and Hamad Medical Corporation.
IPTT is also developing projects, tools and methodologies designed to be utilised by Qatar’s research community. Its Research Hotspot Analysis tool, for example, is identifying areas where global research activity is increasing, and “white spaces” that provide scope for breakthroughs, with the aim of helping to ensure the nation’s research efforts are focused and advantageous. IP is a virtuous cycle, where protected, commercialised innovation stimulates further research, invention and innovation. Through QF R&D, the framework for Qatar to benefit from this cycle is now in place.
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