AT THE EDGE OF INNOVATION
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PARKS: CONNECTING PUBLIC SECTOR, PRIVATE ENTERPRISE, EDUCATIONAL AND RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS
Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) may seem abandoned to the uninitiated, but the air is unmistakably thick with electricity. Even if you don't realise that it is at the very core of the country's push forward into a knowledge economy. Even if you don't know that five years since it began operations, the tech park now hosts 40 local and global companies carrying out disruptive research in the fields of energy, health, sustainability and information and communication technology (ICT). Even if you are not aware that after 30 odd years, QSTP was instrumental in making the world sit up and notice the new age of innovation that is silently taking root in the Arab world. The aura is unmistakable; it's that of change and new horizons.
At the recently concluded International Association of Science Parks (IASP) conference in Doha, which attracted more than 500 delegates from 50 countries, Qatar To
day got an opportunity to chat with science and technology parks (STPs) from nearly every continent of the globe to figure out how they were effecting change in the their little corners of the world. Irrespective of whether they were government supported or non-profit, confined to a campus or spread out over a city, promoted local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or coveted foreign multinational companies (MNCs), were engaged in reviving their economy or kick-starting a new one, the underlying agenda was common – to drive innovation by effectively connecting the public sector, private enterprises, universities and research institutes.
In an earlier interview, Managing Director of QSTP and Head of the IASP 2014 Doha Organising Committee, Hamad Al Kuwari, had said that hubs like QSTP and its counterparts around the world play a critical role in sparking meaningful collaboration across sectors, ensuring that historic investments in education and research pay off in the form of skills, intellectual property and viable technology businesses. QSTP itself is still in expansion mode, Al Kuwari says, outlining the hub's future plans. “We are at 95% occupancy and on track, having officially started design work on the next phase. The plan is to have two more buildings within the park and free zone – a technology building similar to Tech 1 and Tech 2, which incorporates feedback from
"THE CULTURE AND COMMUNITY WE HAVE DEFINED AT THE PARK AMONG STAFF, TENANTS AND QATAR’S WIDER ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM IS EXCELLENT."
HAMAD AL KUWARI Managing Director Qatar Science and Technology Park
our members, enhancing functionality and further supporting their work; and Tech 4, which is going to be more of a workshop where tenants who require heavy-operation testing will be housed,” he said.
Speaking about the draw of QSTP, he said, “Companies are attracted to QSTP's model, notably because we offer world-class infrastructure that supports complex technology research projects. Additionally, we offer freedom operating as a free zone, meaning we can license companies that are 100% foreign-owned, with no taxation on their income or on imported goods used for technology development.” But he says he is equally proud of the non-tangible benefits of being a part of QSTP. “The culture and community we have defined at the park among staff, tenants and Qatar's wider entrepreneurial ecosystem is excellent. We regularly bring local and global industry figures in the health sciences, energy and ICT sectors to QSTP for our TECHtalks series, which has grown into a sought-after knowledge forum. Increasingly these are the types of programmes and services that add value for tenants and entrepreneurs while increasing the attractiveness of the cluster itself.” This, he says, is the trend that is emerging and what his counterparts around the world – from Brazil to Muscat – are implementing