Interview: Abdul Sattar Al Taie
How important is the emergence of a research and development (R&D) sector when transitioning to a knowledge-based economy?
ABDUL SATTAR AL TAIE: A knowledge-based economy represents an evolution to a post-industrial, service-based system, which, by its very nature, is fuelled by research, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. Singapore can be taken as an example of this in that they don’t have a plethora of natural resources, but rather depend on the generation of knowledge. In that regard, their success is evident.
This is why, when it comes to establishing a knowledge-based economy, R&D is vital to the transformation process. Indeed, R&D can be a prerequisite for the development of a knowledge-oriented workforce that enables the transition, as it underlies the innovation that powers their work processes and the technologies they harness. It also creates a fertile environment to attract talent from a more global pool, setting in motion productive collaborations with relevant institutions and partnering with the bright minds of any field or discipline.
However, the development of the business side of research is also key. It is important to facilitate the commercialisation of R&D outcomes and tap into new innovations as a mechanism to achieve economic growth. This is how goal-oriented research activities can advance knowledge-based industries and sustain a country’s economic base.
To what extent have past research programmes funded by QNRF achieved successful outcomes?
AL TAIE: Projects funded by QNRF have had a tangible and positive impact across a myriad of sectors and disciplines. One such example is the modelling for open-air cooling systems in stadia. Another is the development of new national standards for road pavement works that have now been deployed by the Public Works Authority, also known as Ashghal. Moreover, in partnership with the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development, the design and manufacture of an innovative and cost-effective air conditioning system, known as QCOL, was fully integrated and funded by QNRF.
In the medical sciences field, a QNRF-funded research project by Hamad bin Khalifa University and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) made possible the discovery of the BDP1 gene, which causes hearing loss. Another milestone is a QNRF-funded collaborative project by Weill Cornell Medical (WCM) College in Qatar and WCM New York, which has successfully enabled ground-breaking research that could lead to the generation of personalised blood in laboratories. Moreover, researchers at WCM in Qatar and HMC received an international award at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Heart Association for their work on cardiovascular metabolism.
With regard to the environment, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment revised its standards for residual chlorine discharge into the sea based on the outcome of a project awarded to a team of researchers from the Texas A&M University in Qatar (TAMUQ). Chlorine is used to treat cooling water; however, before its discharge, chlorine levels have to be reduced through a delicate treatment to make the water safe for marine life. Another project in collaboration with TAMUQ involved studying wind and wave patterns on the Qatari coast, which benefits the energy sector as a whole.
It is also important to note that some QNRFfunded projects are shorter in timeframe than others and produce solutions that are deployable almost immediately once the project reaches the outcome phase. While sometimes implementation takes longer, every single one of the research projects we fund goes on a journey from input to outcome, and each contributes by bringing us one step closer to a fully fledged knowledge-based society.
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