Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil-producing company, and US company IBM have entered into a partnership to build an innovation centre in Riyadh to support the kingdom's plans for a technology-focused and sustainable economy.
Through the centre, the two companies will explore potential opportunities on how advanced innovation such as artificial intelligence, the hybrid cloud and other emerging technology can be put in place to address sustainability challenges, the Saudi state oil company said.
The move, which is aligned with the kingdom’s sustainability vision, will help enterprises to reduce their carbon emissions and prepare them for the impact of climate change.
“The strategic collaboration of Aramco’s leadership with IBM aspires to achieve potential breakthroughs in the energy sector that will have industry-wide impact,” said Ahmad Al Sa’adi, Aramco's senior vice president of technical services.
“Through this collaboration, we are seeking to leverage the next frontiers in computing to drive economic growth and enable decarbonisation through digital technologies.”
Saudi Arabia is in the middle of a major economic diversification drive under its Vision 2030 agenda, amid a push to reduce its reliance on oil and tap into other high-growth industries to boost its economy, create more jobs and attract private investment.
One of the programme's core pillars is a focus on sustainability. The Arab world's biggest economy set a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060 through a “circular carbon economy approach” that is compatible with its development and diversification plans, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at the Saudi Green Initiative forum last October.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have evolved as strategic locations for global technology companies to lend their expertise, helping advance digital economy programmes.
In October, Amazon, the world's biggest online marketplace, teamed up with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to set up a new cloud innovation centre in the capital to spur innovation in the public and private sectors.
Also last month, chip maker Intel, one of the world's largest technology companies, said it would open its first AI research and development centre at Dubai Internet City.
In September, US software major Oracle opened its second UAE innovation centre in Abu Dhabi, which aims to help public and private sector companies take advantage of emerging technology to boost their bottom lines.
Aramco and IBM also plan to collaborate on identifying opportunities to apply technology that will address supply chain efficiency and resiliency challenges, as well as support local Saudi talent in pursuing careers in the digital economy.
“This collaboration aims to help develop local skills and talent with the knowledge and expertise needed to build this vision for the future,” said Saad Toma, general manager of IBM Middle East and Africa.
IBM has been actively investing in the region, especially in the UAE. In March, it entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology to hasten the pace of digital transformation in the Emirates through the use of Fourth Industrial Revolution innovation.
In 2020, the company entered the Middle East and Africa's cloud storage market by opening two data centres in the UAE — in Abu Dhabi and Dubai — to capitalise on the growing demand for cloud services.