One year ago, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) unveiled the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS), a long-term plan to create a knowledge economy in the small state. Today, during the Qatar Annual Research Conference, the foundation announced further honing their research targets to three broad areas: water security, energy security and cyber security.
The three topics were selected after long deliberations amongst 100 experts from all the different sectors involved in research in the country. They rounded them down to 12 main areas, and finally Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of QF, handpicked the final three as the most important challenges facing Qatar.
“It is not really a change in our research strategy, but an evaluation of the past as we move forward,” says Thomas Zacharia, executive vice president of Research and Development in QF.
The national strategy – and the renewed areas of focus – represent a shift in the country’s research activities. While QF used to fund research that addresses problems in different countries, it is now focusing on issues that are primarily relevant to problems that Qatar faces directly. For example, the energy security target aims at funding research to produce 1000MW of power from solar energy by 2020, around 7-10% of Qatar’s expected energy needs by then.
“But the majority of Qatar’s problems are the same as the rest of the Arab world, so solving them here will solve them in all Arab states as well,” says Faisal Alsuwaidi, president of QF’s research and development. “For example, our research into diabetes – a major health issue in Qatar – can help other countries in the region having the same problem.”
“We are eager to continue nurturing productive partnerships and a collaborative research culture that brings together the most intelligent scientific minds, as they engage in stimulating discussions and debate some of the nation’s grand challenges,” adds Alsuwaidi.