Start-up culture on the rise in Qatar


Economic News

20 Jun 2016
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With an expanded space and a growing portfolio of programmes, the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is an established fixture in Qatar’s burgeoning start-up culture.

Since its inauguration in 2009, QSTP has secured a strong reputation for nurturing new, high-tech businesses, while also supporting research and development (R&D) for more established companies. The park has already attracted resident companies such as Shell, Total, GE, Siemens, SAP, Microsoft and Mitsubishi, among others.

QSTP is currently undergoing expansion, both in infrastructure and in the take-up and range of entrepreneurial programmes. By encouraging new private sector investment in higher value-added enterprises, QSTP’s initiatives dovetail with Qatar’s current economic diversification drive.

Enter Tech 4

Currently, the park has four buildings – Tech 1 and Tech 2 – as well as an Innovation Centre and a GE single-user building. Together the structures hold 34 tenants, representing an 83% occupancy rate. Since the start of 2015, four new companies have opened offices at the park, Spain’s Iberdrola as well and three new local start-ups – Modus, Girnaas and Vetosis.

The two tech buildings are designed for medium and large-sized companies, with spaces available in increments of 500 sq meters. The Innovation Centre, meanwhile, caters to smaller entities, providing a business incubator for start-ups.

Due to high occupancy rates and sustained demand, expansion is under way with a new building – Tech 4 – scheduled for completion in January 2017.

“The new Tech 4 building will differ from Tech 1 and Tech 2 in that it is designed to hold heavy machinery and handle high vibrations,” Hamad Mohammed Al Kuwari, managing director at QSTP, told OBG. “It will primarily cater to local and international energy and environmental clients.”

The Tech 4 building will be 6000 sq metres in size, divided into 12 spaces each designated for one company, with the ground floor made up of workshops and a top floor devoted to office space.

Additional land has been designated for a Tech 3 building although no development plans are currently underway.

Incubating start-ups

The QTSP’s Accelerator Programme, which is designed to facilitate and support lean start-ups, saw a steep increase in applicants from 27 when the programme launched last year to 103 applicants during its most recent intake in February this year.

The Accelerator Programme runs in three-month sessions, taking 15 successful applicants per cohort and offering a $100,000 grant to each team accepted.

At the end of the three-month period, each team presents a five-minute pitch during “Demo Day”, after which teams may advance to the Incubation Programme, go straight to commercialisation or withdraw.

Launched in the first quarter of this year, the Incubation Programme offers a minimum two-year incubation period for start-ups, along with several key benefits.

For example, programme participants will be able to set up a limited liability company under QSTP for QR5000 ($1370) as well as have access to subsidised office space, financial services and an engagement programme designed to integrate new start-ups with existing tenants, according to Al Kuwari.

The programmes are flexible with private sector entities and individuals able to enter at any stage. “There isn’t just one track to follow – entry is based on evaluation of the status of the technology and its readiness,” Al Kuwari told OBG. 

Promoting synergy

In addition to the various programmes and incentives offered to start-ups, the park’s tax free zone status is also favourable for established companies looking to benefit from lower costs, while maintaining high-grade infrastructure for facilities.

In order to leverage the diversity of tenants present at the site, QSTP is keen to encourage collaboration between the start-ups and established companies at the park as well as with the broader community.

One way in which this is facilitated is via “Business connect”, a one-day, campus-wide meeting of businesses, start-ups and QSTP management to exchange ideas and experiences. The park is also working closely with Qatar University to encourage students to take an interest in entrepreneurship and start-up culture.

With its current portfolio and strategy, the year ahead will likely see further growth at QSTP, particularly as Qatar looks to technology companies and start-ups to diversify the economy.

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