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QF-UK forum attracts high turnout from universities
Haya H Al Muhannadi
/ Categories: In the Media

QF-UK forum attracts high turnout from universities

The importance of achieving commercially viable and sustainable results from R&D that will directly benefit Qatari citizens was emphasised at a Qatar Foundation-United Kingdom forum held at King’s College London on Monday. The ‘Road Ahead’ forum implemented a memorandum of understanding on research and education signed in September 2013 by QF and its UK partners, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the British Council and Universities
UK International Unit.
Laura Robinson, head of India, Middle East and Africa Team at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK, joined leading representatives from the Qatar Foundation and King’s College London in welcoming the participants.
The event drew the interest of universities from across the UK. There were sector specific sessions and presentations from leading Qatari institutions outlining the kind of mutually beneficial collaborations that would be of interest to Qatar.
Speaking to Gulf Times at the forum, Dr Abdul Sattar al-Taie, executive director, Qatar National Research Fund, commented that he was impressed by the high turnout which, he said, “shows the high commitment from our UK partners.”
He spoke about a need for investors in R&D to appreciate the long term commitment required before the gains can be realised.
“There is a misconception about research; our industrial partners might say, ‘OK, I am ready to invest in research, but will it improve the performance of the plant now or next year?’ You reply, ‘No, because you need to conduct the research topic in a methodical way; after that, you wait for results and then IP or invention disclosures, and then patents. Then when you have the patent, there is still a long way ahead of that because you have to approve the concept and take it from benchmark to the prototype, and from the prototype not everything will pass this stringent screening for commercialisation,” he said.
He painted a vivid picture of the kind of patient, far-sighted mindset that is needed in the interval between making an investment and seeing the benefits.
“This area, between the granting of the patent till commercialisation is called ‘The Valley of Death’, because even if you produce IP it doesn’t mean you will be on the road to success. It requires nerve, a willingness to accept risk, and a lot of sweat, blood and tears. That’s why you need the venture capitalists, and this is a bit missing in the Middle East because in our culture, being merchants, we want to secure profit for our investment but this doesn’t work with research because you are bound to lose a lot of money but once you succeed you will get a higher return on your investment. So, in a way, this is a different concept and different investment culture,” he observed.
Fundamental to success, he emphasised is the support from the top leadership in Qatar.“The commitment is from the political leadership of Qatar and is very clear. It’s not just talk - it’s a commitment of 2.8% of GDP within the framework of the Qatar Vision 2030,” he said.
Hamad Mohammed al-Kuwari, managing director, Qatar Science & Technology Park, also spoke about the importance of taking a long view and developing a balanced approach to the inevitable ups and downs.
“There needs to be more understanding about failure being acceptable and part of a learning curve. In start-ups – the first might not be successful, with the second you are learning from your mistakes - and you see this pattern globally. We can learn from other countries about how they learnt to overcome a cultural resistance to failure. It’s all about communication.” Ultimately, he added, the outcome of the applied research particularly in water, energy and cyber security needs to be
‘commercial and sustainable.’
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