On June 5, the political landscape in the Arabian Gulf was plunged into a state of disarray when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain not only cut official diplomatic ties with Qatar, but also halted all land, air and sea traffic from and to the gas-rich country.
While this unprecedented situation in the Middle East remains unresolved, it has been business as usual in Qatar, with daily life virtually unchanged. Qatar's long-term goal to transition to a knowledge-based economy also hasn't changed, and to that end, Qatar Foundation (QF) remains stalwart in its support young Arab scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs. While the political landscape remains hazy, QF's commitment to development and innovation is unwavering—and more important than ever.
Long before the diplomatic dispute turned the world's eyes to Qatar, QF was one of the most prominent drivers of innovation in the region. Its numerous initiatives, projects and partnership reflect one of the most important pillars of the country: transitioning from a carbon-based economy toward one rooted in building academic knowledge and leadership in research and development (R&D).
"This is not a journey that you stop just because the current political environment has been distorted," says Dr. Hamad Al-Ibrahim, Executive Vice President of QF Research & Development (QF R&D). "We at QF recognize that given the opportunity, today's young people will be the driving force of meaningful change. For this reason, we continue to work hard to provide opportunities that are designed to unleash the creative and innovative talents of the youth. This is especially pertinent in today's climate. Even amidst this regional backdrop, we will not stop fostering a culture of innovation within Qatar. You cannot put a blockade on innovation and you cannot hinder the human thirst for knowledge."
Virtually every center under QF is involved in nurturing the innovative spirit in Qatar. QF has established several dedicated research centers to target key needs facing the country, including Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI).
Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), inaugurated in 2009, incubates tech start-up businesses by providing office and lab space, as well support programs and access to partnerships with other QF entities, such as the universities of Education City. QSTP start-ups have already made significant advances in a range of fields, from blood banking to carbon capture.
Nurturing young talent is a high priority for Qatar. The eight international universities on QF's Education City campus have driven research in their specialized areas, such as Texas A&M University at Qatar's Gas and Fuels Research Center and Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar's biomedical research program.
Even as QF enriches innovative minds within Qatar's borders, it is also doing the same across the Arab world. Stars of Science is a highly regarded Arabic language 'edutainment' reality TV program that enables aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and scientists to present their innovations to a panel of expert judges. Four finalists vie for a share of $600,000in seed funding.
A multitude of young men and women from across the Arab world have taken part in Stars of Science throughout its nine seasons, presenting possible solutions to some of the region's most pressing challenges. And today, the impact of these innovations is being felt across the world. For example, Ahmad Al Ghazi, a Saudi national, parlayed his appearance in season 2 into stints at QSTP and Silicon Valley, where he earned three patents for Goom, his motorized walker and assistive standing device designed for the elderly and handicapped. Algerian veterinarian Dr. Mohammed Doumir, who won season five for inventing boots designed to diagnose limping in camels, was able to start a now-thriving business under QSTP.
"Stars of Science inspires people like me around the Arab world and ignites their ambition. I believe that these same young people will not be distracted or deterred by political issues in the region; that they are focused on their dreams and how they can be achieved," says Doumir. "Qatar shares the same dreams, in terms of its investment in human potential and science and research, and it too will not be deterred from reaching its goals."
Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) is a non-profit organization that supports Qatar on its journey to becoming a diversified and sustainable economy. QF strives to serve the people of Qatar and beyond by providing specialized programs across its innovation-focused ecosystem of education, research and development, and community development.
QF was founded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Father Emir, and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who shared the vision to provide Qatar with quality education. Today, QF's world-class education system offers lifelong learning opportunities to community members as young as six months through to doctoral level, enabling graduates to thrive in a global environment and contribute to the nation's development.
QF is also creating a multidisciplinary innovation hub in Qatar, where homegrown researchers are working to address local and global research and development challenges. By promoting a culture of lifelong learning and fostering social engagement through programs that embody Qatari culture, QF is committed to empowering the local community and contributing to a better world for all.