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With the as­pi­ra­tion of pro­vid­ing a plat­form to share knowl­edge on in­cu­ba­tion, the In­cu­ba­tion Con­fer­ence 2017 was or­ga­nized at Hor­muz Grand Ho­tel, Mus­cat – Oman un­der the aus­pices of His Ex­cel­lency Yahya bin Said Al Jabri, Chair­man of the Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone Au­thor­ity in Duqm (SEZAD)

Or­gan­ised by the Pub­lic Es­tab­lish­ment for In­dus­trial Es­tates (PEIE), rep­re­sented by the Na­tional Busi­ness Cen­tre (NBC), the two-day event aimed at gath­er­ing ex­perts from across the globe to share their ex­per­tise and dis­sem­i­nate aware­ness on the role played by in­cu­ba­tion in grow­ing busi­nesses world­wide.

Speak­ing at the open­ing event, Hi­lal bin Ha­mad Al Hasani, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of PEIE, noted that Small and Medium En­ter­prises (SMEs) en­joy eco­nomic and so­cial im­por­tance that con­trib­utes to a com­pre­hen­sive and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. “Rusayl In­dus­trial Es­tate was the first in­cu­ba­tor to small and medium in­dus­trial projects. Today, this es­tate em­braces sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment com­pa­nies that are recog­nised lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

He added that PEIE has been a pi­o­neer in in­cu­bat­ing projects in the field of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and there­fore it es­tab­lished The Knowl­edge Mine (TKM) in 2004 in the Knowl­edge Oa­sis Mus­cat. PEIE then aimed at ex­pand­ing TKM and turned it into a spe­cialised cen­tre for in­cu­bat­ing and de­vel­op­ing SMEs. “In 2013, PEIE in­au­gu­rated the Na­tional Busi­ness Cen­tre (NBC) to be a mixed use in­cu­ba­tor that of­fers promis­ing Omani en­trepreneurs a plat­form to fur­ther their busi­ness ideas and de­velop them into grow­ing ven­tures by of­fer­ing base train­ing and coaching, mar­ket­ing and networking op­por­tu­ni­ties, ac­cess to

fund­ing, fully fur­nished of­fices and state of the art fa­cil­i­ties in­clu­sive of meet­ing rooms,” Al Hasani added.

“The pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tors achieved by PEIE re­flect the fo­cus given by the Sul­tanate on the in­dus­trial sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar and the other in­vest­ment sec­tors in gen­eral,” Al Hasani in­formed, adding: “The per­cent­age of SMEs ex­ceeds 85% of the to­tal projects in the var­i­ous es­tates of PEIE. Dur­ing the last ten years (2007-2017), PEIE has achieved a sig­nif­i­cant growth in var­i­ous ar­eas.

The cu­mu­la­tive value of in­vest­ment has touched more than OMR 6.3 bil­lion un­til the first half of 2017. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, growth has been wit­nessed in the num­ber of job op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by the projects based in the in­dus­trial es­tates by 143%. This brings the to­tal num­ber of work­force by the end of the first half of this year to more than 53,000 with an Oman­i­sa­tion rate ex­ceed­ing 35%. Fi­nally, we hope that this con­fer­ence will come up with re­al­is­tic so­lu­tions and ideas that will con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of in­cu­ba­tion and work to­ward boost­ing pro­duc­tions, ac­ti­vat­ing di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of projects, and fac­ing the grow­ing num­ber of job seek­ers.”

EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL ECOSYS­TEM

The key­note speaker Kirstie Chad­wick, CEO of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness In­no­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (INBIA), high­lighted the sig­nif­i­cance of driv­ing wealth through en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tems, not­ing that there are 950 en­trepreneur­ship cen­tres in 62 coun­tries. She added that the mis­sion of INBIA is to help com­mu­ni­ties en­able their en­trepreneurs trans­form their dreams into in­no­va­tive busi­nesses that make global pros­per­ity a re­al­ity. Chad­wick also pointed out that the age of ac­cel­er­a­tion is re­defin­ing global en­trepreneur­ship and tech trends are cat­alyz­ing small busi­ness growth across the globe.

Chad­wick com­mented that it takes a vil­lage to raise a startup, which would com­prise pol­icy mak­ers, men­tors, ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, startups, en­trepreneurs, en­trepreneur­ship cen­tres and cor­po­ra­tions. “En­trepreneurs should lead a re­gion’s startup com­mu­nity. Politi­cians, in­vestors, uni­ver­si­ties and ser­vice providers are ex­tremely im­por­tant el­e­ments of a thriv­ing startup ecosys­tem. How­ever, some of the most pro­lific startup com­mu­ni­ties are loosely or­gan­ised with in­for­mal lead­er­ship from lo­cal suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­enced en­trepreneurs,” Chad­wick said.

OB­JEC­TIVES

On her part, Malak Al Shaibani, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of NBC, com­mented that the con­fer­ence aims at high­light­ing the best prac­tices re­gion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally; get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the role of in­cu­ba­tion in a grow­ing ecosys­tem and the fu­ture of the in­cu­ba­tion in­dus­try; explore the role of aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions (col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties) in sup­ply­ing and sup­port­ing in­cu­ba­tors with a steady pipe­line of en­trepreneurs; explore the role of cham­bers of com­merce and other en­ti­ties in sup­ply­ing and sup­port­ing in­cu­ba­tors and the growth of SMEs, amongst other ob­jec­tives.

Al Shaibani thanked the spon­sors of the con­fer­ence, which com­prise BP Oman (Plat­inum Spon­sor), Oc­ci­den­tal Oman, Fund for De­vel­op­ment of Youth Projects – Sharakah, Al Raffd Fund, Shu­mookh In­vest­ment and Ser­vices, Oman LNG De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion, Pub­lic Au­thor­ity for Small and Medium En­ter­prises De­vel­op­ment (Riyada), SME

De­vel­op­ment Fund, Al Wisal Ra­dio, and Oman Es­tab­lish­ment for Press, Pub­li­ca­tion and Ad­ver­tis­ing.

DIS­CUS­SION SES­SIONS

The con­fer­ence fea­tured a line-up of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional speak­ers and high­lighted sev­eral themes through the var­i­ous ses­sions and spe­cialised work­shops. Mod­er­ated by Sheikh Shabib Al Maa­mari of BP Oman, a ses­sion on the topic of SMEs in the MENA Re­gion took place as part of the con­fer­ence. The speak­ers com­prised Fawzi al Har­rasi, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor (Op­er­a­tions) of Tee­jan Group, Tom Strodt­beck, CEO of Strodt­beck and Com­pany Lim­ited, Omar Chris­tidis, CEO and founder of Arab Net. The panel­lists de­fined ecosys­tem, which is a net­work of all or­gan­i­sa­tions di­rectly or in­di­rectly in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of SMEs. This in­cludes gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions, pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions, aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions, com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, con­sumers and the SMEs them­selves.

The se­cond ses­sion, which high­lighted in­cu­ba­tion mod­els and was mod­er­ated by Malak Al Shaibani, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of NBC, fea­tured speaker com­pris­ing Mostafa Karim­ian Egh­bal, Ad­vi­sor to the Pres­i­dent of Is­fa­han Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Town (ISTT), Aysha Al Mu­dahka, CEO of Qatar Busi­ness In­cu­ba­tion Cen­tre (QBIC), and Gior­dano Dichter, Head of EU BIC ser­vices EBN in­no­va­tion net­work. This ses­sion high­lighted the fact that there are many in­cu­ba­tion mod­els some of which are linked with uni­ver­si­ties, some vir­tual, sec­tor spe­cific those which fo­cus on a mi­nor­ity group, so­cial and those which are com­mer­cial.

Mod­er­ated by Tom Strodt­beck, CEO of Strodt­beck and Com­pany Lim­ited, and fea­tur­ing Aman Mer­chant, se­rial en­tre­pre­neur and founder of Im­pact Hub – Dubai, Louis Leb­bos, Founder and Part­ner at Astro Lab – Dubai, and Ab­dul­lah Al Ju­faili, Gen­eral Man­ager at Sharakah, the third ses­sion un­der­scored the topic of en­trepreneur­ship en­ablers. In this ses­sion, the panel­lists talked about the role of key play­ers in fi­nance, men­tor­ing, in­cu­bat­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing.

MEET­INGS AND WORK­SHOPS

On the first day of the con­fer­ence, the at­ten­dees had the op­por­tu­nity to meet and in­ter­act with a num­ber of Qatari in­sti­tu­tions which are aim­ing at in­vest­ing or ini­ti­at­ing new part­ner­ships in the Sul­tanate. Be­sides, two work­shops were held on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence on the first day. The first work­shop high­lighted the topic of ‘Run­ning Sus­tain­able In­cu­ba­tors’ and the se­cond work­shop un­der­scored the topic of ‘Ac­cel­er­at­ing In­no­va­tion in the Ecosys­tem’.

DAY TWO

IN­CU­BA­TION AND STP MAN­AGE­MENT

De­liv­er­ing the key­note speech on the se­cond day, Dr. Choi, Jong-in, pro­fes­sor and vice pres­i­dent of strat­egy and plan­ning at Han­bat Na­tional Univer­sity, un­der­scored the topic of in­cu­ba­tion man­age­ment and Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Parks (STP). Jong elab­o­rated on the main con­cepts that en­trepreneurs should con­cen­trate on from his point of view, which in­clude ca­pa­bil­ity-prod­ucts­mar­ket (CPM), tech­nol­ogy-prod­ucts­mar­ket link­ages (TPM), and ideas-need­scapa­bil­i­ties (INC model).

Jong also com­mented that en­trepreneurs need to fo­cus on strat­egy, ca­pa­bil­ity, team work and mo­ti­va­tion in or­der to suc­ceed. “One needs to also con­cen­trate on tech­nol­ogy and mar­ket sides,” he em­pha­sised. Jong men­tioned the sources of tech­no­log­i­cal learn­ing in Korea, as he said, “These sources in­clude in­ter­na­tional sources and do­mes­tic sources. The in­ter­na­tional sources in­volve equip­ment em­bod­ied, hu­man em­bod­ied, printed info, for­eign sup­pli­ers, and for­eign buy­ers. On the other hand, the do­mes­tic sources of tech­no­log­i­cal learn­ing com­prise uni­ver­si­ties, re­search in­sti­tutes, other firms, and other sup­port sys­tems.”

He noted that In­nop­o­lis Daedeok in Korea is where 12 per­cent the R&D spend­ing and 11.8 per­cent of the PhD level re­searchers in Korea are con­cen­trated, thus giv­ing the zone the best re­search ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the coun­try. “In­nop­o­lis Daedeok is mov­ing for­ward

to be­come a global center that turns new tech­nolo­gies into suc­cess­ful busi­nesses,” he pointed out.

IN­NO­VA­TION, ED­U­CA­TION AND FU­TURE TRENDS

The se­cond day of the con­fer­ence fea­tured a line-up of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional speak­ers. The topic of in­no­va­tion in en­trepreneur­ship was high­lighted by Ana Greif, CEO and founder of Varela Con­sult­ing, Dr. Ab­dul­lah Al Mahrooqi, CEO of In­dus­trial In­no­va­tion Cen­tre, and Dr. Dhafir Al Shan­fari, CEO of Oman Au­thor­ity for Part­ner­ship De­vel­op­ment (OAPD). This ses­sion, which was mod­er­ated by Has­san Al Lawati, CEO of Carzaty, em­pha­sised on the sig­nif­i­cance of in­no­va­tion for de­vel­op­ing economies to give them an edge over de­vel­oped economies. In a rapidly chang­ing world, con­sumers are al­ways on the look­out for prod­ucts and ser­vices that add value to their ex­ist­ing way of life. SMEs in de­vel­oped coun­tries have al­ways been in­no­va­tive and at the fore­front of ef­fi­ciency due to the en­tre­pre­neur­ial na­ture and the lack of an or­gan­ised bu­reau­cracy.

Tarek Ahmed Fouad, Growth Pro­gram Man­ager at Shara­jah En­trepreneur­ship Cen­tre, Dr. Rahma Al Mahrooqi, Vice Chan­cel­lor for Post Grad­u­ate Stud­ies and Re­search at SQU, and Prof. Yusra Mouzughi, In­terim Vice Chan­cel­lor at Mus­cat Univer­sity, un­der­scored the topic of en­trepreneur­ship and ed­u­ca­tion. Mod­er­ated by HH Dr. Sayyid Ad­ham Al Said of The Firm, the ed­u­ca­tion re­lated ses­sion high­lighted that en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion plays a ma­jor role in cre­at­ing aware­ness amongst fu­ture job seek­ers of the op­por­tu­ni­ties they can avail from start­ing their own busi­ness.

Fi­nally, the fi­nal ses­sion on the fu­ture trends of en­trepreneur­ship fea­tured Kirstie Chad­wick, CEO of In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness In­no­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (INBIA), Dr. Choi, Jong-in, Pro­fes­sor and Vice Pres­i­dent of Strat­egy and Plan­ning at Han­bat Na­tional Univer­sity, Dr. Fi­ras Al Ab­duwani, Founder of Hus­sam Tech­nol­ogy Com­pany, Khalid Al Hu­raibi, Act­ing CEO of the Pub­lic Au­thor­ity for Small and Medium En­ter­prises (SMEs) De­vel­op­ment ‘Riyada’, and Emad Sum­mad, As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Me­chan­i­cal and In­dus­trial En­gi­neer­ing at Sul­tan Qa­boos Univer­sity. This ses­sion, which was mod­er­ated by Al Mu­tas­sim Al Sariri of Oman Oil Com­pany, elab­o­rated on the terms ‘in­no­va­tion hubs’ and ‘su­per hubs’, which are recog­nised to be new terms in the in­no­va­tion and in­cu­ba­tion arena. The ses­sion has also high­lighted the im­pact of glob­al­i­sa­tion and dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion on the fu­ture of ser­vices pro­vided.

GRAD­U­A­TION CER­E­MONY

A grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony was held on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence to cel­e­brate the grad­u­a­tion of seven com­pa­nies who were in­cu­bated suc­cess­fully at the NBC and Riyada in­cu­ba­tor. The grad­u­a­tion took place un­der the aus­pices of His Ex­cel­lency Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bi­mani, Vice Chan­cel­lor of Sul­tan Qa­boos Univer­sity (SQU). The seven grad­u­ated com­pa­nies are: Al Salama Fire Pro­tec­tion En­gi­neer­ing Con­sul­tancy, Four El­e­ments, Ma­jan Health Ser­vices, Al­fanoos De­sign, Ec­ity, Ith­bat De­vel­op­ment, and Ad­vanced Safety So­lu­tion.

This con­fer­ence was the first of its kind in the Sul­tanate, which was aimed at in­still­ing a cul­ture of en­trepreneur­ship, and dis­sem­i­nat­ing aware­ness and knowl­edge on the bod­ies that sup­port SMEs and in­no­va­tion re­lated en­ti­ties. The con­fer­ence as­pired at high­light­ing the best prac­tices re­gion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally; get­ting a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the role of in­cu­ba­tion in a grow­ing ecosys­tem and the fu­ture of the in­cu­ba­tion in­dus­try; ex­plor­ing the role of aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions (col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties) in sup­ply­ing and sup­port­ing in­cu­ba­tors with a steady pipe­line of en­trepreneurs; ex­plor­ing the role of cham­bers of com­merce and other en­ti­ties in sup­ply­ing and sup­port­ing in­cu­ba­tors and the growth of SMEs, amongst other ob­jec­tives.

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