The Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies and Research, SQU and Oman Technology Fund (OTF) organized an orientation lecture about OTF and a discussion panel on “Establishing a Framework for Making Oman an Innovation Hub” on Tuesday 27 February 2018 at Al-Faham Hall at SQU. The event was held under the auspices of the Hon. Sheikh Dr. Al-Khatab bin Ghalib Al-Hinai, Deputy Chairman of the Oman State Council.
The event shed light on enhancing the culture of innovation in Oman, raising awareness among individuals and institutions about the importance of innovation in national social and economic development, and engaging various stakeholders in order to establish a framework for making Oman an innovation hub. The event explicitly acknowledged the fact that innovation is a core foundation of national social and economic development and is essential for global competitiveness in the 21st century.
Oman’s government has identified enhancing innovation in the country as one of its core goals, and has subsequently set the target of having the sultanate ranked in the top 10 of the Global Innovation Index and the International Innovation Index by 2040. In order to achieve this, Oman is now engaged in widespread efforts that are intended to transform the nation to an efficiency driven, knowledge-based economy. This transition requires not only a well-trained, highly skilled, and innovation-focused labour force, but also the regulatory framework and educational support system that encourage its formation.
Innovation increases global competitiveness, enhances efficiency, creates employment opportunities, and contributes to social well-being. Engaging in innovation is a key component of creating sustainable businesses and organizations that use market-based mechanisms to deliver products to a wide and increasingly diverse group of customers. As a result, innovative entrepreneurs have the potential to create social and economic impact in their communities, across nations, and throughout the world. However, their ability to succeed is largely determined by a number of factors within their entrepreneurial ecosystem. If emerging markets like Oman hope to unlock the potential social and economic impact of innovation, they must build vibrant ecosystems that support innovative entrepreneurs.
There are numerous examples of countries around the world that have managed to build innovation ecosystems and hence transform themselves into international innovation hubs. According to the 2017 Global Innovation Index, the ten most innovative countries in the world are still dominated by Western nations, with Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom occupying the top five positions. This leadership in innovation is based on a number of factors, including strong economies, well-educated populations, supportive government policies, and national cultures that value innovation and entrepreneurship. However, the list also contains various nations, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malta, that just a handful of generations ago often struggled with a lack of resources and limited industrial bases. It has been the commitment of these nations to innovation that has enabled them to assume leading roles in innovation alongside some of the world’s biggest economies. These are examples from which Oman can learn, especially as it seeks to move from its current position of 77 into the top 10 in the Global Innovation Index over the next 22 years.
For Oman to succeed in this transformation, it is essential that key stakeholders from a variety of fields of expertise meet to discuss a framework for helping Oman become an international innovation hub. It is for these reasons that Sultan Qaboos University has invited experts to the Roundtable on establishing a framework for making Oman an innovation hub.
The discussion covered various areas including: the place of innovation in Oman’s social and economic development; policies and regulations that support Oman’s transition to an innovation hub; ways of lowering social, economic, and policy-related barriers to innovation; opportunities and challenges for establishing Oman as an innovation hub; and, integrating Oman’s innovation into regional and international networks. Other topics discussed include reforming education policies to keep pace with the knowledge and skills required for young people to participate in the emerging ‘third-wave industrial revolution’; inspiring and educating the next generation of emerging innovators; expanding Omani access to innovation infrastructures, including equipment and financial support; and, supporting Oman’s transition to a center of international innovation.
The Roundtable featured around 6-10 key discussants, drawn from multiple fields and areas of expertise, who have been identified and invited by the moderator as key stakeholders in their fields. Being experts in their respective fields, the discussants could bring a variety of perspectives and experiences in relation to developing a framework for spreading innovation in Oman, including an understanding of the state-of-the-art at regional and international levels and how this relates to Oman’s unique socio-cultural context. In addition to the discussants, audience members were invited to attend in order to observe the Roundtable discussion. The Audience consisted of concerned academics, postgraduate students, industry representatives, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders.