The Qatar Foundation is helping diversify the country’s knowledge-based economy so it’s not so reliant on oil and gas.

The Qatar Foundation (QF) is busy developing its very own silicon valley to help build the nation’s knowledge-based economy.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the non-profit organization, supporting Qatar’s development through its education, research, and community development initiatives, is diversifying the country’s focus so that it’s not solely reliant on oil and gas.

We don’t look to match Silicon Valley, says Hayfa Al-Abdulla, Innovation Director at Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). But in our way, on our scale, we can achieve something similar.

QSTP, Qatar’s leading tech innovation and entrepreneurship hub, and part of QF, houses international companies such as Microsoft, Shell, ExxonMobil, Cisco, Siemens, and local tech-focused firms. They are advancing their technologies alongside startups that, through QF, can access the funding, facilities, and networks on which nascent “techpreneurs” depend.

We invited major companies to develop their technology in Qatar. Then we introduced funding and capacity-building streams, and followed that with innovation-focused programs – like QSTP’s Accelerator and Incubator – and innovation mindset education, Al-Abdulla says.

QSTP’s tech-driven environment is combined with nine world-class universities and three established research institutes, all within QF’s Education City. This ecosystem has opened a pipeline of Qatar-based talent, where students can become researchers and tech entrepreneurs, and have the support to do it.

Other organizations are noticing the success of these institutions and are becoming a part of it. The European Innovation Academy – one of the world’s top entrepreneurship education providers – partners with QSTP to run the Arab Innovation Academy, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s largest entrepreneurship “boot camp,” where young innovators develop a startup from scratch in just two weeks.

QF’s five-year deal with venture seed capital fund 500 Startups is providing funding, training, and mentorship to MENA startups, and has brought the fund’s 500 Distro Dojo accelerator program to the region.

Our ecosystem isn’t about infrastructure, says Al-Abdulla. It’s about ideas and enabling them to develop naturally to the point where they become commercialized products. We don’t force innovation to happen. But we make sure it can.

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Author

Omar Hajjar is a journalist based in the UK. An investigative reporter, he has lived in 3 different countries in the Middle East over the past 10 years.

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