Interactive Sessions Provide a Collaborative Platform for Updating the Qatar National Research Strategy

Key stakeholders from academia, industry, business, and government in Qatar joined together to play their part in defining the future path for the nation’s research and development ecosystem, as the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference 2018 (ARC’18) concluded today.

The seventh edition of ARC – organized by Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D) – was held over two days at Qatar National Convention Centre under the theme ‘R&D: Focusing On Priorities, Delivering Impact’, with thousands of local and international delegates participating in expert-led sessions on research, innovation, technology, and their role in building a sustainable, diversified, and globally-competitive economy.

On the second day of the conference, a series of interactive and in-depth workshops enabled hundreds of R&D stakeholders from all sectors in Qatar, and members of the global R&D community, to contribute to launching the process of updating the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS), the overarching framework for Qatar’s research objectives. These sessions represent the start of an ongoing dialogue designed to ensure the nation’s research and innovation efforts align with its development vision, continue to meet the needs of its people and its industries, and have the greatest potential to create economic and social impact through the commercialization of solutions.

In the opening day-two plenary session, titled ‘Delivering Impactful Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy’, insightful keynote presentations provided multinational perspectives on how research strategies can bring the greatest benefit to society, engage stakeholders, overcome challenges, and pave the way for impact. Speakers were Professor Mariam Al-Ali Al-Maadeed, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Qatar University; Professor Low Teck Seng, CEO, National Research Foundation, Singapore; Dr. Orkun Hasekioğlu, Vice President, Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK); and Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, President and CEO, Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), with the session moderated by Dr. Frans Van Den Boom, Executive Director, Policy, Planning and Evaluation, QF R&D.

“In research and innovation, we can no longer work alone,” said Datuk Dr. Sulaiman. “We cannot process all the knowledge and technology that is available alone – we must work with relevant partners, and there must be agreement between the public and private sectors on how to move forward.

“ARC’18 has emphasized an important aspect how we can progress such collaborations – the need for intermediaries to bridge gaps in communication and knowledge-sharing between the public and private sector, NGOs, and universities, bringing them together to speak the same language.”

Dr. Hasekioğlu said: “There are certain pillars that allow a research and innovation ecosystem to develop – leadership and strategy-planning; attracting international talent, which does not necessarily mean they have to be physically based in the country; and having the right environment to nurture ideas and innovation.”

The intensive parallel sessions that followed – held under the ARC’18 Research Strategy Track and across the four QNRS pillars: Energy and Environment; Computing and Information Technology; Health and Biomedical; and Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities – saw stakeholders highlight their initiatives for accelerating the impact of research and innovation in areas of the highest priority and relevance to Qatar’s industry, economy, and society. These sessions enabled participants from across Qatar’s R&D landscape, and international delegates, to share their views and insights and to understand and learn from each other, capitalizing on the platform for knowledge exchange that ARC’18 provides to make the process of updating the QNRS a truly collaborative one.

In the closing plenary session of ARC’18, topics explored and discussed in the workshops were summarized and channeled into preliminary recommendations for the next steps in updating the QNRS.

Meanwhile, day two of the conference also provided a window into the disruptive technologies that have the potential to help reshape industries, ways of working, and lives, as 16 global startups exhibited their game-changing ideas and inventions under the ARC’18 Innovation Track. The ‘International Startups Presentations’ showcased rapidly-emerging technologies in a range of fields, including healthcare, finance, robotics, food and water security, waste management, and renewable energy.

These presentations followed ‘The Future Is Now’, a new event for the Middle East that was presented on the first day of ARC’18 by Qatar Science & Technology Park and Singularity University, and which proved popular with delegates as some of SU’s leading speakers provided expert insights into the technologies of tomorrow.

Outlining the purpose of Viome, one of the participating startups, Dr. Stephen Barrie, the company’s Chief Business Development Officer, said: “We provide personalized nutritional recommendations based on your unique microbiome, so that you can optimize your health. In doing so, we are trying to help create a world where disease is optional.”

Meanwhile, Arvinder Singh Kang, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Urban Logiq, a start-up that provides urban intelligence for city-planning, said: “City and provincial governments often have a lot of data contained in silos; we collect it, and then build systems to facilitate better city-planning based around mobility and economic development.”

During ARC’18, 270 poster presentations demonstrating the extent and depth of the research activity taking place across Qatar were exhibited to delegates under the Researchers Track, which also saw 55 oral presentations of research projects focusing on areas under the four QNRS pillars on the opening day of the conference. All projects were selected from a total of about 1,000 scientific abstracts submitted ahead of ARC’18.

On the first day of ARC’18, other highlights included a wide-ranging and thought-provoking keynote speech by Vivek Kundra, former Chief Information Officer of the United States, titled ‘Leading Change and the Challenges of Transformation; and high-powered international panel sessions focusing on how R&D can address national priorities while also generating wider impact, and the role of research and innovation in building Qatar’s global competitiveness.

Doha, Qatar 19 March 2018


Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), and Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, attended the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference 2018 (ARC’18), which opened today at Qatar National Convention Centre under the theme ‘R&D: Focusing On Priorities, Delivering Impact’.

The two-day conference is bringing local and international perspectives to the pivotal issue of how Qatar’s research and innovation efforts can address the nation’s greatest challenges and make their mark in the global marketplace. The opening day of ARC’18 was also attended by His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, and His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, together with other dignitaries and 2,600 delegates from Qatar and around the world.

The seventh edition of ARC – which is organized by Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D) and, as a platform for knowledge-sharing and multidisciplinary collaboration, aims to support Qatar’s drive to becoming a world-class hub of research and innovation – has introduced three new tracks, each centering on a pivotal element of Qatar’s R&D ecosystem. On day one of ARC’18, expert-led panel sessions and presentations of impactful research projects being conducted across Qatar focused on the four thematic pillars defined in Qatar’s National Research Strategy (QNRS): Energy and Environment; Computing and Information Technology; Health and Biomedical; and Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

The opening day of the conference also saw Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and H.E. Sheikha Hind present the ARC’18 Best Research Project Award to Dr. Talal Khader Talal, of Hamad Medical Corporation, and Dr. David Armstrong, of the University of Southern California, in recognition of their collaborative project ‘Tackling Diabetic Foot Ulcer’; and the ARC’18 Best Innovation Award to Hamad Bin Khalifa University, in recognition of the QCRI Advanced Transcription System (QATS), an Arabic language speech recognition technology.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Vivek Kundra, former Chief Information Officer of the United States, told delegates about the need for nations to put “the building blocks of innovation” in place, saying: “Next-generation economies need to think internationally and systematically from day one, with a 20-year view, while attracting the best and brightest innovators and ensuring investments are focused.

“The wonderful thing is that, through technology, an idea can now reach global scale really quickly. Research and development succeeds where countries have been able to attract global talent not just to build great research institutes, but to identify a path to commercializing their technology.

“There is no monopoly on thinking. You just have to be able to unleash your citizens’ creative spirit, dreams, and aspirations to build your nation’s next economy.”

Kundra then joined H.E. Dr Al-Sada and other members of a multinational panel for a session reflecting the overarching theme of ARC’18, as they explored pathways to research and innovation that provides solutions to national needs, supports economic diversification, and generates new revenue streams through commercialization.

“We are living in a time of turbulence, transition, and transformation,” said Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, who moderated and participated in the session.

“We have moved into a new world where the pace and acceleration of knowledge discovery is happening at warp speed, and this will have a huge impact on the way we work and live. International collaboration is absolutely imperative to make any advances in the large-scale commercialization of technology, and it also requires long-term investment - from both the public and private sectors - in supporting entrepreneurship and unlocking the power of individuals to continue to drive the innovation cycle.”

Throughout the opening day of ARC’18, delegates – including R&D stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and the private sector; and local and international researchers, innovators, experts, and thought-leaders – participated in sessions, presentations, and activities under the three conference tracks.

The Innovation Track unveiled a new event for the Middle East, ‘The Future Is Now’, presented by Qatar Science & Technology Park and Singularity University (SU), and focusing on the way rapidly-accelerating technologies will reshape industries, societies, and lives. As well as showcasing 16 global startups and their groundbreaking ideas and products, ‘The Future Is Now’ saw some of SU’s top speakers provide their insights into the impact that exponential technologies will have on economic prosperity, business, energy, manufacturing, and healthcare and medicine.

“We are now in the same stage of exponential growth that we witnessed in the 18th Century, when electricity was invented,” said David Roberts, Distinguished Faculty, SU. “We live in an era where Artificial Intelligence will bring great added-value to simple things like cars and phones.

“Innovation is doing the same things better and faster, but disruption is doing new things that make old things obsolete. However, companies cannot disrupt technologies. That is what startups to do. We are creating artificial intelligence at an exponential rate.” 

Under the ARC’18 Research Strategy Track, the role of R&D in building a strong, sustainable, and globally-competitive economy was at the center of a special panel session involving six panelists from three nations. ‘Research and Innovation for Qatar’s Competitiveness’ saw Professor Low Teck Seng, CEO, National Research Foundation, Singapore, say: “We have to ask ourselves where the next major company in our nation is coming from - it must be something that we have invested in, and that dovetails with the needs of industry.

“We want to fund areas of science that are relevant to our countries, but that also have global impact; areas that link to an economic narrative, but whose outcomes also help us to resolve issues. To be competitive, you need to be relevant.”

Meanwhile, the conference’s Researchers Track presented 55 of Qatar’s best research projects to a local and global audience through a series of sessions built around the four conference pillars, each focusing on a research area identified as a priority for the nation. Topics included energy and environment solutions for the oil and gas sector; energy efficiency and water security; diabetes; cybersecurity and data science; education; population and economic sustainability; and culture and communication.

A further 270 projects were showcased to delegates through the ARC’18 poster presentations display, with entities and companies involved in R&D in Qatar also exhibiting their ongoing research activities and projects.

Day two of ARC’18 will see its Research Strategy Track bring Qatar’s R&D stakeholders together to launch the process of updating the QNRS, with a series of interactive workshops throughout the day being followed by a closing plenary session that will identify recommendations for the next stage of the process. The day will begin with a panel session exploring the topic of ‘Delivering Impactful Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy’, with the Future Startups Exhibition and research poster presentations continuing throughout the conference.



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