Working at KAUST Provides a Front Seat View to Saudi Arabia’s Economic Diversification Efforts

Saudi Arabia is making huge efforts to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment.

Since acceding to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2005, the Kingdom has started to simplify its regulatory regime, open up key sectors to foreign investment and promote diversification to bolster non-oil industries.

These efforts made global headlines in June 2015 when the Kingdom’s stock exchange market, known as Tadawul, was opened up to foreign investors for the first time.

Organizations such as the World Bank have recognized these regulatory efforts, and Saudi Arabia’s ‘Doing Business Rank,’ which measures the ease of doing business in various countries around the world, continues to improve.

In addition to streamlining regulations and opening up key sectors to investors, Saudi Arabia is also making major investments in the infrastructure and education systems required to make the Kingdom a “go-to” destination for innovators, researchers, academics, entrepreneurs and investors from around the world.

Live. Work. Play.

Living and working at KAUST has given me a front seat view of these developments and allowed me to work with people at KAUST, and across the Kingdom, who are at the cutting edge of this change.

With over 100 nationalities living on campus, state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor labs and testing stations, and an ‘innovation cluster’ of strategically connected programs for entrepreneurs, inventors and industry partners, KAUST’s work-live-play ecosystem is a key catalyst for the Kingdom’s diversification efforts.

This is especially true for research and commercialization in priority sectors for KAUST such as electronics, sensors, bio-sciences, material/chemical sciences, renewable energy and water technology sectors.

We have also been hosting events, lectures, workshops and other creative offerings that highlight the emerging innovation culture in the Kingdom including the recent Arabian Tech Tour 2015, the UBI Global Benchmarking Conference and a variety of entrepreneurship programs and accelerators for startups.

KAUST is helping support early investments in new technology businesses and the transfer of technologies to the market through its own funding programs. The aim is to build on these programs with co-investors from in-Kingdom and outside to help nurture the nascent venture capital scene in Saudi Arabia and the region.

The combination of Saudi Arabia’s young and growing population, available resources and commitment to robust economic development have made me appreciate the opportunity for setting up and investing in new technology based businesses here.

Learn More at Next Week’s Global Competiveness Forum

A number of economic and competitiveness issues will be discussed at this year’s Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF), which is held in partnership with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, in Riyadh from January 24 to 26.

Over 80 international speakers and 2,500 participants from around the world will discuss the positive impact organizational and national competitiveness can have on local, regional, global economic and social development.

Mark Crowell, KAUST’s Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development, will speak on a panel about ‘Fostering an Ecosystem for Digital Startups.’ Loay Alfi, Business Development Manager, Industry Engagement Office, and Gordon McConnell, Manager, Entrepreneurship Center, will also be delivering a workshop on ‘Driving Organizational Innovation across the Kingdom: KAUST Solutions.’

More information is available at the GCF website.