The approval of the Saudi Council of Ministers to establish an authority to develop research, development and innovation is a step in the right direction to support Saudi efforts to advance scientific research, development and innovation in various sciences.
This approval is in line with the Kingdom’s long-term Vision 2030 for the Kingdom to rank among the top 10 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index by 2030, advancing from the 25th place in 2015. Improving in the Global Competitiveness Index is closely related to scientific research and development, including the ability to innovate.
Another goal for the establishment of this authority is to have at least 5 Saudi universities ranked among the top 200 universities in world rankings by 2030, which in turn requires producing high-quality research in Saudi universities.
In my opinion, Saudi Arabia is capable and qualified to be at the forefront of scientific research and innovation, and even to be a leader in the Arab world, especially since we have a good number of Saudi universities as well as research centers, such as King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Center Research, KAPSARC, KAUST and others.
I believe that the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom will play a very important role in supporting scientific research and innovation during the coming period, especially since the Ministry is directly responsible, through the universities it supervises, for supporting scientific research and innovation in various areas, in order support the national economy and keep pace with the changes and developments of the times. This requires supporting universities and their research centers with the necessary financial resources and practical research tools, including technical and scientific human resources, in addition to a shift from a traditional teaching approach and to a research approach, which relies on the search for information and the analysis of learning outcomes and outputs.
In my opinion, the Ministry of Education, through its research and innovation arm represented by the Agency for Research and Innovation, is able to make a difference by promoting a culture of research and innovation not only at the level of faculty members and research centers in universities, but even at the level of students, creators, and innovators.
The scientific research chairs in universities and research centers also have an important role in supporting research and innovation in the Kingdom, including developing scientific skills, and enabling those with innovative scientific ideas to transform their ideas into pioneering projects that support economic growth to achieve sustainable development.
The partnership between the new authority, Saudi universities, research centers and the private sector is also crucial to supporting scientific research and innovation and transforming applicable scientific research into commercial projects viable for growth, development and investment.
The King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity “Mawhiba” also plays a vital role in discovering and nurturing talented and creative people in scientific fields of development priority. Mawhiba seeks to help build a national system for talent and creativity in Saudi Arabia towards achieving the goals of Vision 2030.
Last but not least, in my opinion, supporting creative and innovative students with scholarships to study abroad will help foster scientific research and innovation in the Kingdom.
Overall, Saudi Arabia has what it takes to lead scientific research in the Arab world, for several considerations, including human talent, advanced research institutions, as well as financial capabilities and supportive private sector institutions.
And what confirms the Kingdom’s relevance in scientific research is the 120% increase in scientific research publication, with 33,588 research papers published by public universities in 2020. Saudi Arabia has led global efforts in university publications of Coronavirus research, ranking first in the Arab world, 14th globally, and 12th among G-20 countries, according to the Web of Science database. In 2020, 143 patents were registered and granted locally and internationally to members of Saudi universities, and the Kingdom climbed to seventh place in the global entrepreneurship ranking. A research team from Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University funded by the institutional funding program at the Ministry of Education developed a Coronavirus vaccine and started the clinical trial phase. This research was published in an international journal.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.