Interview: Omar Ali Al Ansari
What has been the driving force behind the establishment of the QRDI Council?
OMAR ALI AL ANSARI: The formation of the QRDI Council is another step in Qatar’s journey in research and innovation. Over a period of 10 years, a culture of research has been fostered through the establishment of various academic institutions, research institutes and funding bodies. The Qatar National Research Fund, for example, was established in 2006 – the first research fund of its kind within the Middle East. Since then, Qatar has witnessed a marked improvement in its research system, most notably a 20% increase in the number of researchers, including the recruitment of top international research and development (R&D) talent, as well as an eight-fold increase in the number of publications and a research impact score that is higher than the global average.
Over time, many countries have leveraged research, development and innovation (RDI) to address what is fundamentally important. We must now direct our efforts and resources towards establishing our own set of imperative targets. To do this effectively, we must take certain strategic steps, which include focusing efforts on where our competitive advantage lies, ensuring industry plays a leadership role when it comes to innovation, and adopting a consistent and sustainable approach to developing high-quality talent.
Alignment is key to ensuring that robust linkages grow between academia, industry and the government, in order to realise the benefits of investment in RDI. This “golden triangle”, is essential to societal and economic growth.
To achieve each of these goals, the QRDI Council is working on developing a unified five-year strategy called the National Research, Development and Innovation Strategy, designed to fulfil the requirements of the Qatar National Vision 2030. This plan would allow the country to make the right choices in terms of where to focus resources, and how to encourage collaboration among researchers, officials, industry leaders and entrepreneurs.
How can regulations be updated to encourage future investment from the private sector in R&D?
AL ANSARI: The business sector plays a critical role, if not the leading role, in any vibrant RDI ecosystem. Especially over the last few years, various state actors have made significant progress in ensuring that there is continued development throughout the private sector. This has been accomplished by improving the ease of doing business, creating new free zones, working on improving our intellectual property regulations and enhancing our immigration and residency laws and regulations.
Building on these efforts, we must continue to transform our regulatory environment to introduce the dynamics of a thriving RDI ecosystem, which relies on the mobility of talent, capital and ideas. Progress in this area is a key condition to enhancing the role of the business sector in achieving our RDI ambitions.
How can Qatar help to provide solutions to global challenges in the medium to long term?
AL ANSARI: In 2012 Qatar hosted the UN’s Conference of the Parties to address climate change and environmental topics. By mobilising national resources in order to solve our local challenges, know-how and technology will emerge and help to address the world’s major challenges. We see this happening in other countries and there are promising areas where Qatar can do the same.
The blockade imposed on Qatar underscored the need for greater self-reliance. For example, the private sector has led significant developments in areas such as domestic food production. Here, private companies are turning towards R&D to ensure consistent production volume and quality.
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