Bahrain eyes F1 biggies for hi-tech park funding
Manama, April 2, 2008
Bahrain is hoping to persuade high-rolling executives to plough money into a new business and technology park during this weekend's Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
Economic Development Board (EDB) chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa said on Tuesday investors would be encouraged to participate in building a sustainable automotive industry in Bahrain - starting with the new facility.
He was outlining the EDB's latest economic strategy during the opening of the Motor Sport Business Forum Middle East, which is underway at the RUF automobile manufacturing facility at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), Sakhir.
"I wasn't going to mention this, but our strategy is called 'From Oil to Motion'," he said.
"If you look at it, we generate oil, generate energy, produce aluminium, from the aluminium we can produce performance parts and these can later be used in a race.
"This is the value chain to develop and fill in the gaps."
The plan calls for automotive industries to locate premises in the planned business park, attracted by the chance to use the BIC to test and develop their projects and the opportunity to strike research tie-ups with the nearby Bahrain University.
"Formula One is not a motorsport industry. On the one hand it is a wonderful potential marketing tool for a country, but in and of itself you cannot consider to have an effective motorsport industry," he said.
"It is all the support that goes around it."
Bahrain's Formula One success has not gone unnoticed by the country's neighbours, with an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix being added to the race calendar next year and Qatar revealing its ambitions to stage a race in the future.
However, Shaikh Mohammed was upbeat about the possibility of the Gulf staging three rounds of the championship in the future.
"I guess that's a question for Bernie Ecclestone," he said.
"I led the negotiating team to get the Grand Prix to Bahrain and when I went to see Bernie, one of the things I took with me was a map of the world with dots marked where they had Grand Prix.
"There were 12 I think in Europe at that time, two or three in Asia and two in North America.
"In the whole area between Italy and Malaysia, there was a huge big gap in the middle that needed to be filled.
"There is constant movement involved in where the world is growing. We used to have three or four races in Central and Latin America, which we don't anymore.
"Can we see three Grand Prix in the Gulf? I don't see why not.
"It is like having golf courses, they complement each other. Each circuit is different, has a different challenge and it helps grow the interest in the sport and meet the demand.
"This demand will provide the opportunities for investment in motorsport in the Middle East."-TradeArabia News Service