Posted on March 21, 2018

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.

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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.”

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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.

For more information about the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference 2018, please visit: www.qf-arc.org

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