|President of the international expert group
"The Innovation Partnership"
Saudi Arabia is gaining strong international position in innovation capacity as a result of its ambitious efforts for higher education reform, according to international reports including Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), World intellectual property (IP) indicators and Google studies.
"Saudi Arabia has obviously begun the process of building IP management capacity." Richard Gold, professor at Canada-based McGill University and president of the international expert group "The Innovation Partnership TIP" , said.
International eye on innovation capacity
The 2009 World Economic Forum recognized Saudi Arabia among the top 30 most competitive economies in its annual GCI Report putting it in 28 position out of 133 countries studies.
In the innovation capacity section, Saudi Arabia has surpassed advanced economies such as Portugal, Spain, France and Russia as well as knowledge-intensive economies such as India and Brazil.
Besides having a position of 37 out of 133 countries in quality of scientific research institutions ahead of Spain, Russia , and Italy, Saudi Arabia ranked at 37 position in university-industry collaborations in research and development ahead of France and Poland. With reference to the availability of research scientists and engineers, Saudi Arabia ranked at 47 positions ahead of Egypt, Russia and Brazil.
Patent indicators & innovation
With reference to the number of utility patents granted in 2008 per million populations, GCI positioned Saudi Arabia at 45 places ahead of India and Brazil. It was also announced at Google Day Arabia 2.0 held last February that there was only a total of 3,224 patents filed from the Middle East and North Africa region in the last thirteen years, with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco on the top. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) 2009 "World IP Indicators" revealed that 2008 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filling in Saudi Arabia was 60 with average annual growth rate of 16.5 in the period 2003-2008.
"What this may reflect is a growing capacity in IP management and the skills necessary to file and obtain patents. This is an important component of the innovation capacity of a country as managing innovation is a critical factor. It should not, however, be mistaken for overall increases in innovation itself." Gold explained.
Higher education & innovation
The active development process in the higher education sector is in harmony with the vision of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz who played a pioneering role as a leader of progress and excellence in Higher Education through an integrated developmental vision that encompasses all types of knowledge and stresses the scientific approach in promoting the educational and research environment of the Higher Education institutions.
This was shown in his keynote speech at the inauguration of the Shura Councils annual session in Riyadh on 7 March. by saying "Education is one of the most important duties shouldered by this country since its foundation. In order to support higher education, I inaugurated King Abdullah University of Science and Technology at Thul in the presence of a top level world audience. Other new universities in various regions were established to raise the total number of universities to 25. All available resources and capabilities were made available for them, with unlimited support. This has ensured that our universities occupy advanced rankings at the level of Arab, Islamic, and world universities. We continued the programme of sending students on scholarships abroad to provide the best opportunities and access to the world’s best universities in the most important specializations. The number of students sent abroad now stands at 70,000"
"The keynote speech indicates that Higher Education in Saudi Arabia is witnessing unprecedented quantitative and qualitative development in regard to development programmes, quality initiatives, and strategic plans." Abdulkader Alfantookh, deputy minister of higher education for planning and information, said
"These higher education initiatives in technical readiness and infrastructures played a vital role in placing Saudi Arabia in a prominent place in the scientific and technical domains, both regionally and internationally." Alfantookh indicated.
In response to that Gold said "We know that no innovation-intensive centre exists without at least one strong university and a community that is educated. This is an issue in Saudi Arabia, as its tertiary enrollment ranks 72nd in the world."
"While patented inventions are important for a rising economy, the transfer of tacit knowledge may be more important still. This occurs, for example, through the training of students (particularly graduate students) who then move into industry or start their own businesses. Attracting and retaining highly skilled graduates is an important factor in maintaining innovation." Gold stressed.
Strategy for promoting innovation
" What we at TIP have found in our consulting work in emerging economies is that countries such as Saudi Arabia must extend the process of building IP management capacity beyond patent filing to include research management capacity including negotiating and managing research agreements and consortia agreements, reporting and so on." Gold suggested.
Gold pointed out that Saudi must also build capacity in licensing in and out technology and building research consortia in the region.
"As for education, it must continue to build its graduate programmes, encourage the free investigation of scientific ideas at universities, and find ways to encourage graduate students to continue their careers in Saudi Arabia whether in universities, industry or in their own businesses. The country already benefits from good laboratories and research facilities but needs to encourage the growth and increase in sophistication of these institutions." Gold concluded.