Innovation holds key to emerging challenges



SIRAJ WAHAB | Arab News Staff

Published — Friday 11 January 2013

Last update 11 January 2013 12:55 am

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DHAHRAN: A high-ranking Saudi academic has described innovation as a key pillar in the Kingdom’s march toward achieving knowledge economy goals.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Saudi-GE Innovation Center in Dhahran Techno-Valley earlier this week, Dr. Khalid S. Al-Sultan, rector and CEO, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), said innovation held enormous potential in addressing the emerging challenges in all sectors of growth.
“Our university is committed to promoting localized innovation and strengthening Saudi talent base through strong academia-industry linkages,” said Al-Sultan. “This association with GE is one example of that strategy.”
The Saudi-GE Innovation Center is expected to play a key role in identifying and nurturing localized solutions that will enhance energy efficiency. “The center will contribute to shaping a new generation of talented Saudi professionals who are involved in hands-on research,” said Al-Sultan.
What Al-Sultan said was echoed in a recent survey in which an overwhelming majority of businesses said innovation was the main lever for a more competitive economy. Eighty-six percent of Saudi respondents in the GE survey said innovation contributed to improving the products and services of their company.
Prominent among those who were present at the high-profile event in Dhahran were Saudi Aramco President and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih, SABIC vice chairman and CEO Mohamed Al-Mady, GE Vice Chairman John Rice.
The center is to serve as an ideas incubator for GE and its partners to work together, share knowledge, collaborate and co-create — thus building localized solutions.
The unveiling of the new center is part of General Electric’s $1 billion investment commitment. The 2,200 sq. meter center aims at fostering homegrown innovation and is set to work closely with customers on addressing the Kingdom’s priorities in creating more energy efficient and affordable health care solutions.
Since the center is aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2020 which aims to boost Saudi entrepreneurship, manufacturing and exports to accelerate diversified and sustained economic growth, it will collaborate with partners, customers, key think-tanks and academic institutions to promote the country’s innovation ecosystem.
The center offers visitors a highly engaging and digitally interactive experience of GE’s accomplishments in the Kingdom over the past 80 years. The center highlights GE’s country partnerships and capabilities as well as examines key trends and issues in various sectors including energy, aviation and health care.
“The Saudi GE Innovation Center demonstrates our commitment to be a true partner in Saudi Arabia’s growth story,” said GE Vice Chairman John Rice. “The center will support the creation of localized solutions by working alongside Saudi professionals who best understand the Kingdom’s requirements.”
He described innovation as the game-changer and the driving force of economic development. “Creating a robust innovation environment will contribute not only to addressing local challenges but also to supporting the evolution of a talented pool of professionals and entrepreneurs,” said Rice. “We are thankful to KFUPM and Dhahran Techno Valley for their continuous support to the initiative and to all our partners in the Kingdom.”
Executives in the Kingdom rightly believe that it is important to encourage a stronger entrepreneurial culture in the education system through stronger linkages between students and business-savvy individuals, which is reflected in the operational ethos of the Saudi GE Innovation Center. They perceive that encouraging investments and promoting domestic technology development rather than imported solutions are main priorities to further progress innovation in the Kingdom.

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