Arab Science and Tech Head implores the region to focus on research and development.
Dr. Abdullah Abdul Aziz Al Najar states that it is necessary for the UAE to invest in R&D in the science sector and focus on innovative technologies, since the nation’s oil resources will be depleted within 40 to 70 years. Dr. Najar is the Head of ASTF (Arab Science and Technology Foundation).
He also stated that progress within the science and tech fields is critical to the nation and will enhance the security, economy and culture of the UAE, as well as the political climate.
Arab nations invest only 0.3 percent of their GDP in science research, which is far below the 2.5 percent level of investment seen in Western nations. More focus on this area could also be a solution to local unemployment difficulties, answering the need for 100 million positions to be offered over the next two decades, according to Dr. Najar.
The higher education levels, such as university, should be transformed to target the skills and trades necessary in today’s job markets in the UAE, as well as emphasizing the need for scientific R&D in the minds of the youth attending. Dr. Najar noted that many of today’s students simply memorize the facts and pass their exams. He also pointed out the drop in students enrolled in post-grad studies within the applied science fields, a fact that disturbed him.
Data indicates that the GCC has bumped up spending on education, moving from $28 billion in 2007 up to $35 billion spent last year. These investments have resulted in more universities across the Gulf. There were 12.5 percent more educational institutions in 2005 than there were in 2001, although this only included more private universities and foreign institutes, stated Dr. Najar.
The research and development budgets of Western industry giants like IBM and General Motors are higher than the budget seen in entire nations like China, South Korea and India. Najar stated that the private industries have a much larger role in R&D projects, especially when it comes to financing the research and establishing R&D centers. Currently the private businesses that do so are motivated by social duty, but more should see the economic necessity, stated the head of ASTF.
Data shows that in the European Union research in science and technology is funded by private industries at a rate of 45 percent. In the Arab region such research is funded almost exclusively by the public sector and the government.
Studies have indicated that for every one million dollars the Western nations invest in science research, there is $100 million produced, while in the Arab region that payback sits at only $5 million.
In the US and European nations, research in science and tech is the responsibility of private industries. In the Arab world such activity is under the wings of the public and government sectors. Dr. Najar noted that funding needs be altered or rotated. He stated that figures such as Bill Gates should be emulated, since the founder of Microsoft actively supports R&D in an effort to serve the community. Research in itself is crucial for economic and social developments in a region.Andrew Reid, Staff Writer, Gulf Jobs Market News