KFAS News

KFAS, SCPD lay cornerstone of national policy on innovation

January 30, 2018

The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS) and the Supreme Council for Planning and Development (SCPD) laid last week the stepping stone to conducting a study on Kuwait’s national innovation policy, in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

KFAS and SCPD initiated the process of conducting the detailed study in aim to set out a clear vision for Kuwait's future in the fields of science, technology and innovation. OECD has been commissioned to undertake the study, the first of its kind by the organization in the Middle East, given its long experience in conducting similar studies that generated positive output in several countries around the world.

The details were revealed in a launching ceremony hosted by KFAS and brought together representatives from the private sector, major civil society institutions and relevant parties, along with OECD executives. The event saw the participants discussing the most prominent aspects of the study, which aims in principle to review the innovation ecosystem in Kuwait and present recommendations to enhance it. The study is meant for inclusion in the upcoming development plan for 2020-2025 with an eye to promoting the culture of science, technology and innovation as a main pillar of sustainable development.

In his keynote speech, KFAS Director General Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin emphasized the importance of the OECD-led review for the country's future, asserting the need for concerted efforts by all concerned stakeholders to ensure its effectiveness and success and help create a favorable atmosphere for innovation in all walks of life.

"Our cooperation does not only entail an increased spending by the government and private sector on research and development, important as that is, but also involves integrating the innovation ecosystem into the social fabric," he said. Shihab-Eldin went on to point out that overall spending on research and innovation by the government and private sector combined has not reached 0.3 percent of the gross domestic product, a substantially low proportion that does not even make up one tenth of innovation-driven budgets spent by economies based on knowledge.

Shihab-Eldin has also stressed the importance of creating a healthy environment for human development in Kuwait, requiring a radical cultural transformation, to ensure that the future labor force is armed with knowledge and resources that in time would be handy to produce innovative solutions to national challenges. "The recent decline in oil prices and appearance of numerous forms of alternative energy put Kuwait and other oil-rich countries at a crossroad, forcing us to shift the dependence of our social and economic development from the traditional sources of income to a knowledge-based economy, in which our citizens become the real wealth of the country," he said. "This is the transformation Kuwait and its people deserve."

For his part, SCPD Secretary General Dr. Khaled Mahdi noted that this review comes as part of an extensive partnership with KFAS covering several areas, whether in health reform, social policies or, as is the case here, knowledge-based economy, with an aim to help deliver the long term vision of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah to turn Kuwait into an economic and financial hub.

"Our collaboration with OECD is crowned with this would-be comprehensive analysis of our current national capacities of innovation, which would entail setting out a clear action plan to enhance our innovation system," Mahdi said. He further explained that this process would involve data collection through a nationwide innovation survey as well as the gathering of quantitative and qualitative information that would be used in a later phase to lay the foundation of the innovation ecosystem in the country based on the answers to three questions; "Where do we stand now?", "Where should we stand?" and "How can we achieve the required progress?"

Furthermore, Alan Paic, OECD Senior Policy Analyst, delivered a presentation on the organization's methodology of work and studies, noting that the Kuwait-focused review would offer an in-depth look at the country and its innovation ecosystem. He also indicated that Kuwait has its particularities that distinguish it from other countries studied by the organization.

Paic also demonstrated the timetable of the review along with the steps to be taken by the study team, noting that the process kicked off as of this meeting and would take up to the next 12 months. He went on to cite examples of similar reviews conducted by the OECD in other countries with notable success, voicing hope that the Kuwait study would bring about the same favorable outcome, given the attention paid by Kuwaiti institutions to promote change and development.

During the ceremony, several chairmen and representatives of the participating institutions expressed their optimism of the step and were keen to engage with OECD executives, raising suggestions and questions on the study and its implementation steps. They also vowed to commit their capabilities and databases to laying out a national policy on innovation that would help uplift the society and their institutions to new heights.

The OECD Review of Innovation Policy will measure the current state of science, technology and innovation in Kuwait, compared to other countries in the world. Ensuing recommendations should offer a clear-cut action plan to promote the culture of innovation in Kuwait and pave the way for future development. OECD had already prepared similar studies in 26 developed countries, as well as a number of emerging economies, such as Malaysia and Kazakhstan. In Kuwait, the review will identify opportunities and necessary improvements needed to transition the country from a resource-driven economy towards a knowledge-based one, and it would be the first of its kind by OECD in the Middle East.