Advancing academic research is key to economic diversification in Gulf, PwC says

Volume of research publications remains relatively low compared to non-GCC countries, study finds

The class of 2020 did not have a typical graduating ceremony but went through the novelty of a virtual rite of passage. Alamy
The class of 2020 did not have a typical graduating ceremony but went through the novelty of a virtual rite of passage. Alamy

Investing in academic research is key for economic diversification among Arabian Gulf countries as they move towards knowledge-based economies and reduce their reliance on oil, a new study shows.

The task of building an efficient research ecosystem is not only up to higher education institutions but must also involve governments and the private sector to build a sustainable knowledge economy, PwC said in a report on Wednesday. It also requires significant collaboration with international institutions, as well as between regional governments and industries.

"Governments in the GCC will need to develop a clear national research agenda, establish supportive legal frameworks, distribute research funding effectively, incentivise academic/industry collaboration and empower institutions and individuals," Sally Jeffery, global education network leader at PwC said. "Meanwhile, universities also need to further invest in their research facilities.”

Oil-rich Arabian Gulf countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia are moving towards knowledge-based economies to drive future growth. The Abu Dhabi government’s Dh50 billion, three-year Ghadan 21 economic stimulus programme aims to help develop a knowledge-based economy for the emirate through various initiatives that accelerate R&D.

PwC found that among GCC countries, where universities are the main source of research output, Saudi Arabia and UAE are producing the majority of research, with the largest proportion coming from Saudi universities.

Saudi Arabia has the largest number of professionals engaged in research as a proportion of the labour force, landing 52nd among the 134 countries ranked by the Global Knowledge Index.

"A country’s ability to value, absorb and apply new knowledge depends greatly on the investment it makes in research and development, and how it builds local capabilities to innovate and gain a competitive advantage from that knowledge," PwC said.

For GCC countries to do this more, they must recognise the role that researchers play in shaping the future knowledge-based economy and inspiring innovation in a country, it said.

Funding agencies, universities and research institutions must shape their policies to make research opportunities attractive, facilitate the research process, and ensure positive returns on investment, PwC said.

Such well-established research ecosystem will enable institutions to address societal challenges and, accordingly, enable the country to achieve its research targets.

Published: September 4, 2019 05:06 PM


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