Why national research and innovation centres within the GCC are prudent investments
Now Reading
Why national research and innovation centres within the GCC are prudent investments

Why national research and innovation centres within the GCC are prudent investments

New technology investment fosters social good, economic growth, and resiliency in the face of disruption

Gulf Business

Innovation, namely emerging technologies, has become a critical factor in shaping our future. Artificial technology (AI), the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, 5G, and virtual and augmented reality are among those changing every aspect of our lives – and the impact is beginning to become apparent. Areas including national safety and security, education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness are all implicated – demanding government attention like never before.

The new reality stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on the urgent necessity to accelerate technological innovation to become better prepared for the future – something that applies to nations just as much as enterprises. Moreover, the crisis has demonstrated how emerging technologies will impact our lives moving forward – AI has traced infected cases and 3D printing accelerated ventilator design and production. Within the next decade, these technologies will expand to represent over 25 percent of ICT spending. And in the more immediate future, the emerging tech market is projected to grow over seven times faster than the traditional tech market through 2023.

As such, driving innovation around emerging technologies is a priority for governments. While some have acknowledged this urgency, more governments must take leadership in shaping the future of its citizens – and a very effective way is supporting National Research and Innovation Centres (NRICs).

Often government-backed, a NRIC is central to national emerging technology efforts, coordinating across sectors to mitigate and dispel deficiencies, and enhancing investments, R&D, and solutions development. From a leadership perspective, ensuring they remain relevant is essential, especially as the influence of sizable technology companies in elevating citizen expectations shows no signs of subsiding. They must be able to respond to their needs and simultaneously build trust.

To accommodate this priority and ultimately sustain it in the long-term, the onus is now on governments in the GCC to foster technology, address challenges, and bridge the gaps in existing national strategies and technology ecosystems. After all, corporations continue to demonstrate ways to win and impact residents’ preferences and demands. Notably, there are four fundamental roles NRICs play in advancing emerging technology capabilities and ensuring government’s themselves can shape the future:

– Defining and driving strategy: NRICs collaborate with key stakeholders to develop a national emerging technology strategy and advance emerging technology policies.

– Orchestrating research: NRICs drive technology research and provide incentives to external researchers.

– Developing solutions: NRICs validate and accelerate technology adoption by developing solutions for real-world challenges.

– Building expertise: NRICs build understanding, skills, and expertise through awareness, training, and certification programmes. They assess needs and bring emerging technologies into the mainstream.

There are regional examples that emphasise the imperative for NRICs to quickly earn their positions as drivers, best practitioners, and orchestrators at the center of a broad community. For instance, Saudi Arabia has already announced a national AI strategy and sponsored excellence centres to serve government priorities and drive emerging technologies’ innovation.

Another example is the UAE, with the country aiming to leverage its existing blockchain competitive advantage to play an international role. And further afield in Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Center for Quantum Computing has brought together physicists, computer scientists, and engineers to conduct basic quantum physics research and build devices based on quantum phenomena.

In any case, the ecosystem typically includes three areas through mutually-beneficial strategic alliances that can boost the overall ecosystem and drive partnerships that help NRICs achieve financial sustainability while continuing to serve the public interest:

Public sector
The immediate success of NRIC operations and sustaining its activities is backed by the public sector and government ministries and other entities from within. Government priorities, strategy, decisions, and requirements provide the NRICs foundational mandate. Moreover, the public sector is a key allocator of funding and a consumer of NRIC research, training, and solutions. NRICs collaborate with multiple government actors to develop, detail, and implement a national strategy for targeted technologies – playing an essential role in building public sector workers’ emerging technology capabilities.

Academic collaborations can amplify research capabilities, help NRICs develop and offer training, and supercharge R&D processes by including universities, the scientific community, and research institutes. Besides providing talent and technology expertise, they offer resources, including funding, access to global networks, and the use of specialised labs, tools, and physical properties. While NRICs may be national in scope, academic collaborations are often international, and a strong network can ensure any NRIC keeps pace with new developments.

Private sector
Backed with established corporations, startups, and philanthropic organisations, private sector collaborations are essential to NRIC success. These partners provide funding and act as a bridge between research and market by licensing solutions and other technology transfer types. Furthermore, they generally present a corporate perspective and ensure NRICs remain application and market-focused.

New technology investment fosters social good, economic growth, and resiliency in the face of disruption. Therefore, countries should act now to establish one or more NRICs and pursue strategic alliances to help them serve citizens and capitalise on financial sustainability.

The right relationships will be essential, particularly as collaboration across the public, private, and academic sectors is central to executing an NRIC mandate – and governments can utilise these areas to bolster their respective ecosystems and shape the future.

With the aforementioned technologies emerging to play a greater role in transforming every aspect of our lives, a world of new opportunities awaits – and governments have a window to unlock their full potential.

Dr. Lars Littig is the managing director and partner and Dr. Akram Awad, a principal at Boston Consulting Group

You might also like


Scroll To Top