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Science and Technology Parks could make the Middle East a place of innovation, R&D, and foreign interest

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"Over the past few years Science and Technology parks have been sprouting up all over the Middle East: from Egypt and Lebanon in the West, to UAE and Qatar in the East.These parks are attempting to invigorate the spirit of innovation in the Middle East and consequently spark intellectual development.

Countries in the Middle East have recognized the need to encourage inquiry and indigenous start-up ventures in the field of S&T. As a result, there has been a surge of S& T parks in the region within a very short period of time. As of 2007, there were 30 parks dedicated to information and communication technology (ICT), 15 biotechnology parks and 12 engineering parks established in the Middle East. UAE and Turkey have the largest number of S&T parks – 7 or 8. Taking a cue from successful S&T park undertakings in other developing countries like India and Malaysia, these parks aim to bring about practical applications to research and development efforts. They create common areas where companies interested in scientific research can coalesce in order to focus on product advancement and innovation."

Implications

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"Several of these projects are still in the development phase so it is hard to assess their overall impact on S&T development in the region. There is an urgent need to integrate S&T parks between oil-rich and human capital rich countries in the Middle East. According to Dr. Tarek Elabbady, Director of Microsoft Innovation Center in Egypt, countries that are rich in human resources (like Egypt and Jordan) are often poor in other resources, while oil-rich nations have good technical and financial resources but a limited talent pool. For oil-wealthy Gulf States Science and Technology parks are one way of diversifying the economy in preparation for post-oil times. Oil alone constitutes more than 40% of GDP in GCC countries and there is a need to develop other sectors. S&T parks also bring in foreign investment - Free-trade zone incentives, state of the art facilities, tax breaks and links to universities offered by GCC governments have attracted several multinational companies to set up operation in these parks. They are also being used to harness innovation for eco-friendly solutions to the energy sector.

On the whole, if nurtured, these parks are one way to help the Middle East develop its knowledge economy. They will also help to attract positive foreign interest in the region, will spur job creation and might even stem the brain-drain problems that many Middle Eastern countries suffer from."

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Sources:

The Strategic Foresight Group, Middle-East Edition, July 2010, page 11-12: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG-ME_July2010.pdf#page=11

Al-Shobaky, Waleed. ‘The Rise of Middle East Technology Parks.’ The Conscience of a Bit (Blog). 30 October 2007. <http://en.shobakky.org/uae/>

Al Shamsi, Dr. Maitha. ‘Higher Education and Science & Technology Research in the Arab World.’ Gulf News. 11 January, 2004. <http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/highereducation-and-science-and-technology-research-in-the-arab-world-1.310644>

Shehadi, Ramez & Oknayan, Shant. ‘Technology in GCC? It’s a Walk in the Park.’ The National. 20 September 2009.
<http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090920/BUSINESS/709209970/1053/rss>

Atilla, Mustafa. ‘Science and Technology Parks in Turkey.’ Presentation on Innovation and Competitiveness Practitioners Workshop. April 2004.

Hoodbhoy, Pervez. ‘Science and the Islamic World – The quest for rapprochement.’ 2 August 2007 <http://www.chowk.com/articles/12422>

‘MENA Region by Industrial Sector’. United Nations Industrial Development Organization. <http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=o26781>