The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is bringing tech startups to the Kingdom to add another dimension to the innovation ecosystem, Kevin Cullen, the university’s vice president of innovation and economic development, told Arab News.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Riyadh, Cullen said KAUST aims to create a community of innovative businesses.
The university has an annual investment fund of SR30 million ($8 million), Cullen said. He said KAUST is currently putting in place a SR750 million fund to “scale up the amount of investment we can put into these technology opportunities to accelerate the development.”
Entrepreneurship innovation is the dynamo that will drive the future of economic development, the country’s economy, society, and community, he said.
He said KAUST’s funding will attract technology companies to the Kingdom. “So we’re looking to attract deep tech startups to come to the Kingdom, because we can offer them access to capital, accommodation, labs, talent, technology, intellectual property, and access to the biggest, most rapidly evolving market, in the Middle East,” Cullen added.
According to the official, the funding will not only attract companies, but also other investors. KAUST’s startups are now attracting co-investors which makes the raising of subsequent rounds easier for the startups, he said.
At the end of 2021, the university launched its first-ever “open online course,” which came out of the innovation department focusing on entrepreneurship, not the academic side.
“KAUST had a target of getting 10,000 young Saudis signed up in the first year. However, within the first month, we already had 71,000 subscribers,” said Cullen.