Creating a knowledge economy based on scientific and technological research and innovation is the top priority of the Omani government. Crucial to achieving this goal is The Research Council (TRC), which has developed a national research strategy for Oman that is linked to the sultanate’s overall development plans. Sayyed Dr. Fahad Bin Aljulanda Al Said, Assistant Secretary General of the Innovation Development Department of The Research Council, spoke with United World about the establishment of Innovation Park Muscat and how it will serve as a base for TRC and innovation support programs, as well as TRC’s role in building research capacity and a culture of innovation in the Oman.
Could you share with us a bit of history behind TRC’s culture and innovation in Oman?
Here in Oman we are proud of our heritage, history and mostly what we are doing in the present. Of course, we enjoy a comfortable life generated by oil and gas revenues. Yet, we also realize that in order for it to be sustainable, we need to move on and be more innovative. That is what Innovation Park Muscat (IPM) is all about. Being the first Science Park in Oman, IPM will be a cornerstone in our innovation ecosystem. International and local Research and development Centers that address local challenges and build capacity in Oman will be based in IPM. Furthermore, linkages with other institutions required for Innovation Ecosystem will be established and strengthened. We have always been innovators throughout our history. Even today, we have examples of successful innovators. But we need to expand it to become a culture through cultivation of innovation and changing mindset of the people. That is our biggest challenge.
In addition to the IPM, what other plans do you have for innovation development?
IPM will be the base for TRC, but also serve the innovation support programs that are being developed to provide the framework and a sense of innovation culture in the Sultanate. The Innovation Hub will be a source of support for community of thinkers and innovators, where researches can develop new ideas while investors seek out opportunities to collaborate within this community. In addition to hosting current programs of the Innovation Hub, IPM will be the first science park in Oman where research centers of International companies and local companies in different fields of oil & gas, biomedical, renewable energy and so on and so forth, are planned to be located. Of course, the main building will contain all TRC offices and incubators for SME’s.
Could you share with us the overall main focus of TRC at the moment?
Specifically, TRC is focusing on building up research capacity and innovation culture in Oman. Our mandate in innovation is to advocate, assert and help develop an Ecosystem in Oman through initiatives that are aimed to target stakeholders in the society for the short and long terms like IPM which will provide required physical infrastructure, and different programs such as Innovation Hub programs. These programs target all society segments, and they are Industrial Innovation Assistance Program, Educational Innovation Assistance program, Academic Innovation Assistance program and Individual and Community innovation Assistance program. Finally, we will be working towards building innovation capacity with different governmental bodies to spread and create culture and mindset of innovation in different organizations.
Still, changing the mindsets away from a comfortable life now is difficult. Creating a culture where people are able to address their own and society challenges through finding innovative solutions to their own problems is the biggest challenge. It is easy when you have the money to just import, but those ready-made solutions are not the full answer and they are not cheap either. They won't solve your own specific problems, always unique to certain conditions. Quick-fix solutions are not sustainable.