The 3rd MENA Innovation and Technology Transfer Summit, as reported by Al Arabiya English, is on this fall in Sharjah, UAE.
A galaxy of business leaders, innovators and techies will take the centre stage at the 3rd Middle East Innovation and Technology Transfer (MITT) Summit, the region’s biggest specialized event in technology transfer and innovation, to be held at the SRTI Park, Sharjah, on October 13, 2022.
3rd MENA Innovation and Technology Transfer Summit to be held at SRTI Park in Sharjah
The 3rd Middle East Innovation and Technology Transfer (MITT) Summit, the region’s biggest specialized event in technology transfer and innovation, to be held at the SRTI Park, Sharjah. (Supplied)
Leading experts from the region and across the globe will discuss how to best shape the future of innovation while creating sustainable impact, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, covering topic like Water Technology, Renewable Energy, Environmental Technology, Digitization, Industrial Design 4.0, and Mobility and Smart Cities.
The participants in the one-day summit will include R&D institutions, technology transfer experts, global investors, government and private sector representatives, entrepreneurs and academics and other stakeholders, presenting an immersive experience of knowledge sharing, business showcasing and networking in an intimate setting.
The summit comes at a time when the world is witnessing the fourth industrial revolution characterized by the penetration of emerging technology in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park, said: “The MITT Summit 2022 assumes huge significance as the Middle East has become the world’s fastest growing market in business and technology transfer. As proven globally, the knowledge and technology transfer model has been responsible for rapid advancements in every field. By bringing together global experts and highlighting the role of academic institutions in R&D, the MITT Summit serves as a perfect platform for ramping up technology transfer trends in the region.”
The summit will discuss patterns of technology transfer in the Middle East and North Africa region, existing opportunities as well as challenges, and tips on how to achieve set goals and use knowledge sharing to boost the region’s economic growth and long-term stability.
Technology transfer has been the main driver of global economic growth over the last 40 years. Companies are increasingly relying on open innovation to develop intellectual property (IP) more quickly and economically, to stay ahead of competition. Universities, research organisations, and SMEs play a crucial role in supplying intellectual property, and supporting research that will build the innovations of tomorrow.
Many countries around the world have passed their own national legislations and policies to spur innovation. The UAE issued its own National Innovation Strategy in 2014, which seeks to make the country the region’s top innovation hub by developing the right regulatory framework, infrastructure, and ensuring availability of investment.
Connectivity, not oil, will drive the Middle East’s future
The above-featured image is A general view of Tanger-Med container port in Ksar Sghir near the coastal city of Tangier, Morocco. (Reuters)
The region’s start-ups attracted nearly $1 billion in the first quarter of this year, a doubling of last year’s tally.
On the very day that US President Joe Biden lands in Saudi Arabia Friday, nearly 200,000 containers will be making their way to ports from Tangier to Dubai, hundreds of thousands of airline passengers will transit through the region’s airports, millions of dollars in remittances will be flowing from the region to the developing world and countless American companies will be selling their wares to a growing Arab middle class.
Oil and gas, once the main draws for the West, will almost be an afterthought. In other words, it will be just another day of business in the Middle East and North Africa.
For too long, the United States’ regional policy has focused almost entirely on the triumvirate of security, geopolitics, and oil. It is time for the US and the broader Western world to widen its vision and see the MENA region for what it is, and not a caricature of what it was in the 1970s.
But while the term itself is dated, the countries that the term encompasses do have much in common, including strategic commercial geography. They are more Middle World than Middle East and the real dividing line for future success will be connectivity to the wider world, not religious sect or geopolitical alliances or form of government.
Consider the region’s air connectivity. Most of the Gulf Arab states and Iran have cities that are a four-hour flight to one-third of the world and an eight-hour flight to two-thirds of the planet.
To capitalise on this enviable air geography, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and also Istanbul, have created air hubs, with considerable success. In 2014, Dubai International Airport surpassed London Heathrow as the busiest international airport in the world. It is a similar story with supply chain and trade connectivity. Several North African states have enviable Mediterranean coasts and easy air and trade access to Europe. Morocco and Tunisia have become key parts of automotive and aerospace supply chains in Europe and Egypt’s Suez Canal sees some 30 percent of the world’s container trade pass through its waters annually.
The author and journalist Kim Ghattas, in her excellent book, “The Black Wave,” reminds us of how consequential 1979 was in shaping the region. That year witnessed the Iranian revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, events that empowered both Sunni and Shia Islamist radicals for a generation and cowed Saudi rulers into a policy of soft-pedalling and co-optation of its own extremists.
Those days are now over in Saudi Arabia, witness the social transformation of the kingdom in recent years. But if we go back to 1979, there was another less-heralded event that is also worth remembering: the opening of Jebel Ali port in Dubai, today one of the busiest ports in the world. With stacked containers as far as the eye can see, Jebel Ali is both a symbol of globalisation and an example of local leadership in action. The port and associated free zones leveraged a never-depleting resource, Dubai’s geography, to build a major trade and shipping hub.
Saudi Arabia’s investments in the infrastructure of connectivity, airports, rail, seaports, are also supporting regional and global recoveries. A recent World Bank report listed King Abdullah Port in Jeddah as the most efficient container terminal in the world.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is pumping billions into its own aviation sector, aiming to more than triple the number of passengers that fly through its airports by 2030. Before the pandemic, the global travel and tourism industry accounted for one in ten global jobs and more than ten percent of global GDP. Today, the region’s airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Saudia, are leading the global recovery in this sector, too.
More broadly, GCC countries are contributing to economic connectivity through remittances and aid. Remittances far outpace foreign aid and direct investment and are the largest source of foreign currency earnings in low and middle-income countries. Over the past decade, hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed from Gulf Arab states to the developing world, most notably South Asia. Those remittances are a vital part of the development story.
Finally, a rising tech entrepreneurial class has become a top source of economic pride. Biden would do well to step beyond the palaces and meet people like Fadi Ghandour, the Jordanian business leader who founded the FedEx of the region, Aramex and who today serves as an angel investor for the women and men creating and building new start-ups from Amman to Abu Dhabi. The region’s start-ups attracted nearly $1 billion in the first quarter of this year, a doubling of last year’s tally.
While this rising connectivity offers hope, there remain spectacular failures.
Exhibit A is Lebanon, a country of talented people held hostage by craven politicians, currently experiencing one of the worst economic meltdowns of the modern era. It is a similar story in Iran. The region’s non-oil states, meanwhile, are facing stubbornly high unemployment, rising energy prices, supply chain disruptions and a global slowdown.
But these challenges should not obscure a broader opportunity. The MENA region is blessed with a resource that never depletes: strategic geography. The countries and cities that leverage their geographies will be well-suited to compete into the 21st century. Those that fail will remain regional laggards, part of the old “Middle East,” rather than the emerging Middle World. That is the story Biden should be watching and supporting.
Afshin Molavi is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and editor and founder of the Emerging World newsletter.
Localising technology and digital manufacturing are major opportunities for economic growth and greater supply chain resilience
Economic diversification is imperative for the Middle East. The region’s overdependence on petrochemicals in manufacturing is a widely acknowledged risk that weakens resilience and could impede future economic growth. The industry contributes 24% of GDP in Saudi Arabia and 16% in the UAE in terms of oil rents, compared with less than 1% in the U.S. and China.
Middle East governments need to decide which tech segments within the vast technology universe—and even which product families within segments—they want to pursue with large-scale projects, and provide ample support to attract global tech companies as occupants.
In recent years, some Middle East countries, chiefly in the GCC, have launched ambitious programmes to diversify and expand their manufacturing. These countries seek to meet national and regional demand, and position themselves as export platforms. Typically, these projects are part of a state-led master economic development plan.
Countries are prioritising technology for localisation because of its growth potential and strategic importance. At present, high-tech manufacturing is concentrated in a handful of countries (none in the Middle East), whose companies function as providers to the world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the region’s susceptibility to supply chain disruptions and tested its resilience, making it sometimes difficult or impossible for companies to secure the technology on which they depend.
In response, governments and regional authorities are accelerating their localisation initiatives, as are large, global tech manufacturers with similar interests.
Three categories of manufactured tech products, with a combined Middle East market size of roughly $125bn, are well-suited to Middle East localisation opportunities. These are:
Advanced materials such as nanomaterials, smart materials, and bioplastics;
Advanced components such as electronic semiconductor components, and battery components; and
Advanced finished products such as general-purpose robots, space systems, IoT [Internet of Things] devices, and 3D printers.
Some of these products are disruptive and innovative; others are mainstream but satisfy the pressing needs of regional companies in numerous sectors.
Competition among countries will be fierce as they stake claims on lucrative tech segments, gain first-mover advantage, and attract tenants. Already in the Middle East, Neom Tech & Digital Company, founded in 2021 as the first subsidiary to be established out of Saudi Arabia’s $500bn Neom city project, is building advanced digital infrastructure. Likewise, the industrialisation and innovation strategy of the UAE, led by projects by Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, is focused on the localisation of high-tech products.
In this environment, Middle East governments must target first those localisation opportunities that have confirmed market potential and grant them the right to win. Experience elsewhere indicates that governments should select products that:
Have captive and sizeable national and regional demand;
Are in markets that are not yet highly concentrated;
Can be manufactured cost competitively in global terms; and
That could create potential network effects for additional manufacturing localisation opportunities.
Next, after identifying the right opportunity, Middle East governments must put in place a supportive ecosystem. Financial incentives may include direct subsidies to lower upfront capital expenditure requirements, and indirect subsidies such as tax breaks to reduce long-term operating expenditures. Governments will also need to ensure seamless integration into global supply chains, enabled by reliable and modern physical infrastructure for road, sea, and air transport, and by digital networking capacity.
Likewise, regulatory and policy reforms targeted at the technology sector can help lure potential tenants to the region. These could include support for technology adoption, ensuring data security, and protecting intellectual property. Similarly, pure water, enabled by investments in desalination plants if needed, and high-quality and stable electricity, are prerequisites for a successful ecosystem.
Choice of tenants
Finally, to bolster their chances of success, governments should choose tenants carefully, giving priority to those that hold leadership positions in their industries and that can attract other companies into their operating sphere by virtue of their prominence. Likewise, companies that invest significantly in research and development (R&D) warrant special consideration. These companies are more apt to retain their leadership position and remain viable over the long term, given the pace of change in the tech industry. Companies that can demonstrate a strong financial position and have prior experience with greenfield localisation projects are more apt to possess the capabilities and resources to succeed.
As competition intensifies to establish tech manufacturing and satisfy captive and global demand, Middle East governments must move fast. They need to select those areas – materials, components, or products – where they have a right to win, and create the ecosystems to enable companies to thrive.
This MEED published article was produced byAlessandro BorgognaandChady Smayra, partners, andMaha Raad, principal from Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network.
The Arabian Business tells us a story about the ongoing trends in high-tech businesses, technological innovation and the use of social media in the Emirate, wondered if Dubai can be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?
The emirate provides those in the Web 3 space with the ‘perfect balance of work and fun,’ making it attractive for talent, said the 26-year-old co-founder of interactive short video platform Vurse
Originally intending to stay in Dubai for only 12 days, Shadman Sakib ended up “falling in love” with the city and choosing it to launch his interactive short video platform Vurse from, set for the second half of 2022.
Vurse will be one of the first deep tech companies to come out of the Middle East and 26-year-old Sakib said Dubai “has so much potential and can become the next Silicon Valley.”
“We just have to fine-tune people’s mentality on a deep tech perspective and once that happens, the sky is the limit. For us people in the Web 3.0 space, we really want a nice balance between fun and work and Dubai really has the capability to provide both,” said Sakib.
“We are in the process of hiring our team members from across the world and it is actually much easier for us to attract them being based here in Dubai versus other cities because of the fine balance between work and life, plus the entertainment aspect. This is why we chose Dubai and we feel like it is going to be our long-term home,” he continued.
Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space, giving the example of how the presence of the big tech companies in San Francisco led to the development of the American state’s tech reputation.
“Dubai is one of the smartest cities in the world. You go to the airport and immigration is done in minutes, not many cities in the world can compete with that kind of technology,” explained Sakib.
“It is therefore high time we have a homegrown company that goes beyond the traditional businesses we have in this city. Traditional companies can only grow so far versus the companies in deep tech or Web 3 space – especially the ones with proper resources – where the sky is the limit; you have the whole world to play with,” he continued.
How Sakib got into tech and conceived of Vurse
Sakib grew up in Bangladesh and says he was “pretty much of an underdog,” for most of his life, recounting how he dropped out of his undergraduate studies in the US before moving to the UK where he again pursued his studies while working as a waiter on the side.
Lying on his couch one day and playing with his phone Sakib wondered why he was using someone else’s product instead of developing a product that people could use.
“I was 20 years old at the time and while my peers were focused on enjoying life, I was consumed with finding a purpose for mine,” he recalled.
“My philosophy was all about being determined that I would have a strong footfall by the time my friends finish university so that they would come to me and ask for a job,” added Sakib.
Having no background in technology, Sakib talked to a few of his friends and contacts in the app design space but was frustrated with the ideas they came up with as they were a copy of what already existed.
“I wanted to look at how I can wow the customer or my user not recreate the same thing – I wanted to build something different,” explained Sakib. As such, he taught himself coding before meeting the co-founder of Vurse who is a “coding genius.”
It is within this context that the idea of Vurse came about to take the social media experience into the Web 3 space and give content creators ownership over their content rather than having a platform control that.
“Our target is to make the content creators bigger because once they are a big brand themselves, a similar effect will happen to the company itself,” explained Sakib.
“My co-founder and I have been wanting to work on a consumer-facing product for some time now because that is where we think the main fun is. We want to understand the newer generations that are coming up and their culture. We also want to understand the music industry very well,” he continued.
As such, Sakib has delegated his other businesses to fully focus on Vurse, a business he self-funded. And while he declined disclosing much information about Vurse itself, he said it is built on three verticals: a content creator marketplace where people will be able to trade NFTs, a short video platform and the AI verse, a self-created metaverse within the platform.
“The metaverse will stay but the way we see and think of it will change. Currently, you have to have a specialised device to access the metaverse which restricts access somehow,” said Sakib.
“Once the technology catches up to the extent that it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere, then the real game begins,” he continued.
How Stuff work produced this illuminating article on how Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars cannot go noticed. Hence it is republishing here.
Above is this rendering showing another view of Team SEArch+/Apis Cor’s Mars habitat. The unique shape allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure and allows light to enter through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top. TEAM SEARCH+/APIS COR/NASA
Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars
If you’re of the Elon Musk mindset and think that humans, to survive, will have to become a multiplanetary species, we’re going to need a place to live and work. Out there. In space. On other planets.
We’re going to need somebody — a lot of somebodies, really — to build us houses and apartment buildings and offices and space Walmarts and modes of transportation to haul us between all those places. Heck, we’re going to have to build a lot of places to do everything we do here on our rapidly decaying home planet.00:17/01:43
We’ll need architects. A lot of them. We’ll need a different type of architect, to be sure, for our ventures into space. We’ll need … space architects.
Luckily, that’s already a thing.
The Idea Behind Space Architecture
Olga Bannova doesn’t carry a business card that reads “Space Architect,” though she admits that would be pretty awesome. Instead, Bannova’s title (or one of them) is director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) — it’s been a thing since the late 1980s — in the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering. SICSA is home to the world’s only space architecture graduate program. A diploma nets you a Master of Science in Space Architecture.
It’s not a huge program yet, churning out only a few graduates every year. It is, like much of the whole idea of multiplanetary expansion, an emerging field.
But for those who believe that our very existence relies on someday moving to a different galactic neighborhood, space architecture has us covered. It is, in a very real way, simply the latest exploratory mission away from Mother Earth.
“You can’t stay in your house forever and think that somehow everything else will be the same … everything is changing, including our Earth, including us, including the solar system, including the galaxy. It’s all changing and moving,” Bannova says. “That’s why it’s important. It’s mostly about understanding more about ourselves.”
What Is Space Architecture, Really?
Space architecture, really, is just what it sounds like. Bannova heads an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) committee, the Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC) that concentrates specifically on the field. The SATC, on the site spacearchitect.org — if it has an internet site, you know it’s a thing — describes it like this:Space Architecture is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space (it encompasses architectural design of living and working environments in space related facilities, habitats, and vehicles). These environments include, but are not limited to: space vehicles, stations, habitats and lunar, planetary bases and infrastructures; and earth based control, experiment, launch, logistics, payload, simulation and test facilities.
Space architects, then, are charged with designing buildings and houses and offices and a whole bunch of other stuff that humans need to survive — those interstellar Walmarts, perhaps — both here and in space plus devising ways to get between them. All this, not for nothing, while dealing with problems that Earthbound architects don’t even dream about. Don’t need to dream about. Maybe can’t dream about.
Say, for example, a lack of oxygen or atmosphere. Weather patterns that make our current climate-change problems look like a calm day at a sunny beach. A lack of sunlight. Too much sunlight. Microgravity.
A lack of material to build what you need. Or no way to ship material that you need to where you need it. Or no way to get it there in a timely way, considering the vast distances between points in space.
It’s not hard to imagine the problems that space architects will face, now and in the future. It’s not hard to imagine, either that we can’t even begin to imagine some of the challenges they’ll be up against.
Carving out a space in space for our species to continue is a huge undertaking, perhaps the most audacious ever for mankind. It must be what the possibility of flying to the moon — of human flight at all — must have felt like to Galileo.
But, yeah, we knocked those out, didn’t we?
The Challenges Ahead
Identifying the multitude of challenges in our move into space, thinking them through, and realizing that so many have yet to be recognized is a sizable part of what space architects now, and space architects in the future, must do. The field cries out for critical thinkers who have an understanding (if not necessarily a doctorate-level degree) in a multitude of specialties; not only architecture and its different branches, but the different areas in engineering (industrial, aerospace, systems and aeronautical, to name a few), physics, geometry, mathematics, logistics, computer science, human biology and many more.
In meta terms, architecture embraces both art and science. It addresses how we build, how we live, in the space we inhabit. You don’t build a library without figuring out how we move about it, where the books go, where the light comes in.
If our living space is to become outer space — a habitable space that humans have been learning about, up close, for at least 20 years — well, we better start cracking the books.
What’s a habitat on Mars to look like? How do winds there affect what you build? What about gravity? How do you construct a farm, if one can be built, with the radiation of another planetary body beaming down? How do we build living quarters on a ship that may take decades to get where it’s going? How can we make sure that a flying habitat flies?
What can we learn by building these habitats on some of the less-hospitable areas of Earth? How can what we learn help us while we’re still here?
You want to be a space architect? Get yourself a planet-sized toolbox.
“Space architecture is not for the technically timid. To play this game, one needs to educate oneself about the harsh realities of life beyond Earth, and the science and technology for fashioning habitable bubbles in deadly environments,” Theodore Hall, a former chairperson of the SATC and an extended reality software developer at the University of Michigan, said back in 2014. “Only then is one prepared to stand toe-to-toe with the engineers and strive for architectural aesthetics that treat the human as more than a deterministic biochemical subsystem of a soulless machine.”
Those still interested in space architecture — and, again, we’re going to need a lot of forward-thinkers to sign up — shouldn’t be intimidated, though. Plenty of problems are there to be faced, certainly, and it will take all kinds to determine how our species can best live away from home.
Problems in finding a new home among the stars? Space architects are on the job.
“It’s impossible to predict everything, in space especially. It’s hard to design some close-to-perfect habitat even on Earth,” says Bannova, who carries an undergraduate degree from the Moscow Architectural Institute, dual masters degrees (in architecture and space architecture, both from UH) and a doctorate from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology. “We have more questions than answers. It’s the nature of the profession. But it gives you an opportunity to see and decide for yourself where your passion is.”
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