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Dr. Hisham M. Sabir - Director, Technical at QNRF

This month, we sit down with Dr. Hisham M. Sabir - Director, Technical at QNRF, to learn about the achievements of QNRF in the past year and what are its plans as we begin a new year, and how QNRF will continue to support Qatar in the pursuit of its goals.

  1. What were some of the significant successes and milestones QNRF achieved during this year?

In addition to its continuous success in launching all its programs and initiatives, QNRF has managed to effectively, and in a timely manner, adopt the QRDI2020 strategy in terms of its programs’ thematic areas and design. I wish also to highlight two particular successes in the shape of the launch of the second Rapid Response Call, RRC2, and the holding of a Research Outcome Seminar on Intellectual Property.

The RRC2 invited proposals to help Qatar on its road to recovery from COVID19 – an important and topical theme. Judging by the response, in terms of the number of applications, the call seems to have struck a chord with the research community, as was the case with its predecessor, RRC1. The ROS event was the first on the topic of IP and emphasized QNRF’s focus on research economic impact.   

2. Recently, QNRF marked 15 years of successful operations. Over the years, how do you see QNRF’s contributions to building a research culture in Qatar?

QNRF started in an environment where very little research culture or regulatory frameworks existed. As such, QNRF took it upon itself to build a research framework to nurture the, then, embryonic RDI culture, and saw it transform to the established status that it is at now.

Furthermore, and through its ever-growing portfolio of funding programs, QNRF has contributed significantly to building RDI capacity, physical assets, networks of excellence, etc., all of which are important elements of the RDI ecosystem. It is safe to say that elements of research culture, such as ethics, collaboration, industrial engagement, dissemination, focus on impact, etc., are well and truly established in Qatar, thanks, in good part, to QNRF.

3. QNRF helped Qatar respond to the COVID pandemic by launching the Rapid Response Call. Can you tell us a bit about it?

As mentioned above, QNRF has launched not one, but two RRCs, both focusing on COVID-19. The first one was to study the pandemic and its effect on public and private lives and to find solutions and measures to mitigate and minimize those effects. The second call was on the lessons learned from the disease and ways to affect and enhance recovery. In hindsight, and given the continued mutation of the illusive virus, it is perhaps a bit early to talk about recovery!

4. A few months ago, Qatar launched its National Environment and Climate Change Strategy. What role do you envision QNRF playing in helping the country realize this strategy?

One of the four pillars of QNRF is “Energy and Environment”, which, if anything, shows the emphasis that QNRF puts on the theme of environment. Such emphasis is a direct result of the first national research strategy, the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS), where the environment was one of its major themes. Throughout the years, QNRF has and continues to fund research on environmental issues as a matter of priority. This includes issues directly related to the environment, e.g., air quality, seawater pollution, biodiversity, wildlife, etc. It also includes topics that indirectly affect the environment, e.g., energy efficiency, renewable energy, building environment, fuel technology, etc. QNRF will continue to fund environmental research and will adapt and adopt the various elements of the national strategy in its priority themes

5. As we step into the new year, what is new on the agenda for QNRF and what are some developments or updates that the research community in Qatar and beyond can expect from QNRF?

A significant, and relatively recent development is the integration of QNRF into the Qatar Research, Development and Innovation Council (QRDIC) – a process that is still underway and is expected to result in a single body that unifies the two main functions of RDI; strategy and implementation. The benefits of such unification are obvious in terms of smoothing the lines between the two functions and ensuring a coherent and robust RDI leadership.

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