Interview: Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said
How are you measuring the economic benefits of enhancing research and development capabilities?
SAYYID SHIHAB BIN TARIQ AL SAID: In the pursuit of Oman’s becoming a regional centre for innovation and a leader in producing new ideas, products and services, TRC was established by Royal Decree in June 2005. We have since strived to ensure that the sultanate has the largest research capacity in the region, and are a working towards establishing a research culture that responds to local, social and economic needs, while providing world-class infrastructure for evidence-based policymaking. We are focused on a number of objectives outlined in the National Strategy of Research, the most important being: building research capacity, achieving research excellence, facilitating knowledge transfer and value capture, and providing the environment that best enables innovation. Based on these objectives, we have set up a number of programmes to help enhance the research culture in the sultanate.
With regard to the economic benefits, the outcomes of research do not so much provide immediate solutions as provide knowledge and facts that can be built upon to carry out more in-depth research in specific fields, by providing recommendations or scientific proposals. Here we are choosing the optimal subjects that will ultimately produce the greatest net economic effect. A fair amount of time is needed for the results of research to be released, and even longer for it to impact the economy. This can be done through transferring knowledge into products and commodities that will help diversify income and provide new innovative solutions based on science. Since we have only begun to focus on scientific research relatively recently in Oman, the economic effect is still intangible.
Other benefits of research are being explored and reflected in academia. The increase in the amount of studies has helped build and spread a culture of research and development and grow local capacity for innovation. It has also aided the effectiveness of applying research to the sultanate’s broader economic development and created a platform for using new technologies that have the potential to accelerate both social and economic development.
How can Oman enhance its mechanisms to ease and facilitate research-based knowledge transfer?
AL SAID: One of the most important strategic aims set for TRC by the National Strategy of Research is to establish research relationships and facilitate knowledge transfer. Accordingly, TRC has implemented a number of programmes, such as setting up a researcher’s database to enable researchers within the scientific community to communicate among themselves.
The goal is to build the scientific and research community organically, so that they can be well connected to the business community and thus be best placed to implement new ideas. To do so, we must enable the scientific community in every way to increase dialogue with local industries. Here we have set up a conference support programme whereby TRC provides financial support to the government and to private institutions that will benefit from using the conference platform to create partnerships. We also encourage researchers to publish their work in referred scientific journals, in the hope that this provides industries with an incentive to invest in new technologies. In addition, TRC is currently working on establishing the Oman Research Education Network, which will facilitate access to the world research networks and act as a platform for exchanging knowledge and expertise.
Which segments show the most potential to attract and retain specialist researchers?
AL SAID: Almost every sector can benefit from more research and development. We have outlined the most influential in the National Strategy of Research, identifying priorities across the six main areas: energy and industry; ICT; environmental and biological resources; health and social services; education and human resources; and culture, basic and social sciences.
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