Arab world needs to fill gaps in research: Study

Noura Al Kaabi; Prince Khalid Al Faisal, president of Arab Thought Foundation; and Dr Henri El Awit at the launch of the ‘Innovation or Extinction. Arab Scientific Research: its reality, challenges and prospects’ report ahead of Fikr16 conference. — Photo
Noura Al Kaabi; Prince Khalid Al Faisal, president of Arab Thought Foundation; and Dr Henri El Awit at the launch of the 'Innovation or Extinction. Arab Scientific Research: its reality, challenges and prospects' report ahead of Fikr16 conference. - Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Dubai - According to the report, the Arab world's spend on R&D does not exceed $9 billion.

By Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Mon 9 Apr 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Apr 2018, 1:37 AM

Despite technological advancements and scientific breakthrough, the Arab world remains in the back row with an average spend of 0.4 per cent of its national income on research and development (R&D), a report revealed on Monday.
Ahead of the official opening of the Fikr16 Conference, the Arab Thought Foundation launched its 10th Arab Annual Report on Cultural Development that revealed a gap in scientific research in 22 Arab countries compared to international counterparts.
According to the report, the Arab world's spend on R&D does not exceed $9 billion, compared to three neighbouring countries - Turkey, Iran and Cyprus - that spend over $9.2 billion in scientific and research-related activities.
The Arab countries spend an average of 0.4 per cent of its national income on R&D, as compared to an international average of 2 per cent and 1.2 per cent in developing countries. According to representatives, the average R&D spend in modern societies reaches 3-4 per cent.
Titled 'Innovation or Extinction. Arab Scientific Research: its reality, challenges and prospects', the report explores technology, innovation and research in the Arab World and its contribution towards comprehensive sustainable development.
Speaking during the launch, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said the report gives recommendations to policymakers, ministries of education, scientific research centres, universities, companies and media to support and fund research in the Arab world and develop a roadmap for innovation.
"The report highlights challenges and gaps in the journey of development. Research is the start of massive change and cultural development," said Al Kaabi. She added that the report hopes to awaken an Arab collaboration and deepens the understanding of the importance of research for policymakers through highlighting gaps that need to be addressed.
Al Kaabi said with the approach of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots, a comprehensive report was needed to reflect Arab reality, challenges and prospects. "We needed to find the gap and whether our research centres will be able to adapt to modern world transformations," she said.
Through 25 academic papers of 500 pages, researchers from all over the Arab world addressed five chapters in details including scientific research and higher education as pillars of development and innovation; culture and scientific trends; innovation and technological development; mechanisms for building knowledge economy; and research in community service.
The report responds to the 2016 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of 2030, urging Arab countries to adopt the framework and use scientific research and technological advancements to achieve comprehensive sustainable development that the region is in dire need of.
According to the report, only three GCC countries, including the UAE, were ranked among the top 50 countries in innovation in 2017. Dr Henri El Awit, director-general of the Arab Thought Foundation, said the remaining Arab countries were at the bottom of the list.
The average number of employees who work full-time in scientific research in the Arab world do not exceed 450, as compared to 752 in Cyprus, 750 in Iran and 804 in Turkey. Only 20 scientific and cultural publications are found in the Arab world with the highest number of eight magazines in Saudi Arabia, followed by Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE.
Dr El Awit emphasised the need to invest in scientific and technological skills to diversify the source of national income, provide job opportunities and solve environmental and health and social issues.
He said the question revolves around the ability of higher education entities to provide training and scientific research that adapts to the transformation of educational systems across the world and responds to sustainable development.
"Scientific research centres and tech organisations need to be questioned about their vision to measure how well their programmes respond to challenges and future demands," said Dr El Awit.
He added the report needed to be conducted to pinpoint modern changes and learn from lessons that Arab governments can use to change research systems in the Arab world.
The region, he said, must utilise the energies and talents of the youth who can help achieve development. "We have the resources, but we just need policies to be put in place to achieve innovation and development," he said.

Fikr16 Conference begins on April 10, 2018

Titled 'Stabilisation Challenges Amidst Regional Turmoil', Fikr 16 conference officially opens on on April 10, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Dubai. The conference will provide an opportunity for participants to engage in an in-depth exchange of ideas and experiences to address the challenges currently facing the Arab world.
Four plenary sessions will be held - the role of international powers; the role of regional and international organisations; stabilisation; scientific research, technological development and innovation in Arab countries.
Attendees will discuss policies and solutions aimed at stabilising Arab nations and societies.


Crucial investment
Innovation is the need of the hour with R&D playing a pivotal role. Hence it is imperative that nations set apart resources for this purpose since R&D helps reap an influx of knowledge crucial for the growth of an economy. The gap towards sustainable development needs to be closed and scientific and technological skills which help diversify sources of national income need to be enhanced.  

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