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Dr. Turki bin Saud: Our efforts are currently focused on investment of research in industry



HH Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) stressed that the National Science and Technology Plan (NSTP) focused heavily in its first phase on the support of scientific research in the Kingdom, which has resulted in a very large leap equivalent to 40 folds whereas the number of the annually supported projects jumped from 10 projects to 390 projects per year which resulted in the Kingdom's occupying the 35th rank globally and first rank in the Arab and Muslim world in the quality of research according evaluations by international bodies and research centers and coming ahead of both Turkey and Iran. In his opening speech today while inaugurating the workshop of discussing the program of the Second National Science and Technology Plan (Ma'arefa 2) organized by KACST at its headquarters in Riyadh, Prince Dr.Turki highlighted that this jump is insufficient whereas there is still a gap between research and industry, which is a problem in both under-developing and developed countries; pointing out that the reason is the lack of the appropriate means of investment to transfer these ideas into industry. The Prince affirmed that the plan's focus during the current phase is to invest search into industry in ways that highly contribute to the Kingdom's transition to the knowledge-based economy. Prince Dr. Turki explained "When you pay a sum of money for research, it is actually an investment in the building-up and a part of the economic feasibility is a down payment for this product which is going to be marketed in the future. The best mechanism for research investment in industry is KACST's commitment by its role in supporting the early stages of research coupled with the commitment of both the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry besides working on completing the subsequent stages for the investment. This commitment should be before commencing the project. Universities and other stakeholders should abide by presenting researches that are in partnership with standing companies." KACST President affirmed that no presented research would be accepted without a commercial partner, meanwhile stressing that the main target of this stage is supporting the creation of 400 producing company annually instead of supporting 400 research project per year. Dr. Anas Alfares, The Supervisor of the Program of Joint Centers of Excellence at KACST, highlighted, by his turn, that the Kingdom has achieved a great qualitative leap in the fields of science and technology over the past years and currently tops the Arab countries in scientific publishing, where its published referred researches excelled the benchmark of 16 thousand in 2015 instead of six thousand referred research in 2010. Dr. Alfares underlined that the Kingdom has also accomplished advanced levels in the quality of scientific publication as well as growth in the published researches by up to 373%, as well as an increase of 25% in the number of domestic patents. Dr. Alfares affirmed as well that the kingdom pares no efforts to transfer the Kingdom's economy from an oil-based economy to the knowledge-based one and build-up robust and globally competitive industries through supporting research, development and innovation, which as an integrated array play a pivotal role in achieving the industrial diversification, transferring technology and localizing it as a main source of wealth. The Supervisor of the Program of Joint Centers of Excellence at KACST went on stating that the Kingdom works hard to base products and services in the Kingdom on domestically developed and globally competitive technology whereas the contribution of the industrial sector in the Kingdom's gross national production (GNP) is still about 10% since more than a decade despite the facilities and investments allocated to this sector. Dr. Alfares underlined the necessity to couple research outcomes with companies' approaches towards industrial diversification. Dr. Ahmed Alabdulkader, Ma'arefa 2 Secretary General, focused on the Basic Research Program which gears towards expanding concepts of knowledge and building scientific base upon which technology development can successfully move ahead. Dr. Mansour Al-Saleh, Assistant of The Supervisor of the Program of Joint Centers of Excellence at KACST, stressed that the Innovative Research Program aims, at its first phase, to the preparation of the feasibility study and the establishment of a legal entity of the going-to-be facility or establishment, while in its second phase, the program works for the development of working-prototypes and action plan for the facility. Dr. Al-Saleh also highlighted that the Innovative Research Program aspires in its third phase to develop national companies that efficiently contribute to building-up a competitor sector in high-technology fields; stressing that the program will contribute to the involvement of governmental institutions and the private sector in the development of small and medium enterprises sector through developing technology. Engineer Abdulkarim Al-Youssef, Consultant at the international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, synopsized the audience on the program of Major National Projects noting that a number of countries adopt major research projects with broad contribution to bring about qualitative jumps in technology development and address the national strategy issues, citing the success of the Saudi satellite program which is carried out by KACST, the program of desalination plants using solar energy, which resulted in KACST's signing of a memorandum of understanding with both the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and Taqnia Company for Solar Energy to build the first independent and integrated solar energy station in the Kingdom with a capacity of 50 megawatts; highlighting that KACST hopes to repeat this success through launching 10 major national projects with specific attributes. Then activities of the workshop commenced by holding the first session entitled "The Basic Research Program" and chaired by Dr. Abdullah Al-Qudsi,which discussed areas of research and innovation and the relation of these areas to the national plans and policies, as well as developing the human capacities, mechanisms of delivery, follow-up and support. The second session chaired by Dr. Rami Niazi, spotted on the Innovative Research Program and discussed regulations, legislation, patents, the role of public and private sectors in addition to the related mechanisms of delivery, follow-up and support. The third session allocated to the Program Of Major National Projects tackled areas of strategy development, roles of stakeholders, mechanisms of partnerships' formation along with follow-up and support. The workshop was concluded by the fourth session which reviewed results of each session, then discussed the most prominent outcomes of the workshop as a whole.