Bahrain 'falling short in domestic R&D'
Manama, April 8, 2010
Bahrain is "falling short" in its capacity for domestic research and development, Economic Development Board (EDB) chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa has said.
He said without a stronger Bahraini research and development and innovation capability, the competitive strength of new industries, their ability to evolve and reach global front ranks will be limited.
Shaikh Mohammed was speaking at the opening of the Innovation Bahrain Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.
The two-day event, which concludes today, has been organised by Tamkeen in co-operation with the EDB, and held under the patronage of Deputy Premier Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa.
"I'm sorry to say that today Bahrain's innovation status shows weak overall ranking and significant gaps," said EDB's chief executive.
"In the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (2009-2010) for example, Bahrain ranked 58th among 133 countries in capacity for innovation.
"Bahrain came last among GCC countries in 'quality of scientific research and institutions,' and 'university-industry collaboration in R&D.
"It ranked below all other GCC countries except Kuwait for 'company spending on research and development'."
He said there were a number of impediments that were getting in the way of innovation.
"Bahrain has patent, copyright and trademark laws intended to provide a protective legal framework for innovation activities," said Shaikh Mohammed.
"There are shortcomings, however, in implementing regulations to make the laws enforceable the courts."
He said enforcement of intellectual property rights would be essential if Bahrain begins making innovative products.
"There are also shortcomings in financing for innovation.
"Most innovative start-ups and clusters depend on angel and venture capital investors for some of their financial support," said Shaikh Mohammed.
"This venture capital culture in Bahrain and the region is weak, evident in the small number of companies and funds dedicated for that purpose."
He said that another concern was that Bahrain's institutions of higher learning do not posses any considerable research capability.
"Though the Bahrain University faculty includes many accomplished doctoral level staff across a variety of disciplines and though it maintains a traditional strength in engineering, it is not funded to carry out research, nor is research a requirement for employment or advancement," said Shaikh Mohammed.
He said that this situation was a circumstance the university itself wished to change.
Shaikh Mohammed said that Bahrain was fortunate to have been a pioneer in many realms throughout its history in the Gulf.
"It had the first schools, the first oil industry, the first aluminum industry and the first financial hub," he said.
"Although these represent strong and notable achievements, we are keen to evolve further and ensure that we always maintain a competitive advantage through a vibrant productive and creative society led by our principal asset - our human capital." Shaikh Mohammed said they were under no illusions that as a small country, their challenges were sometimes far steeper than others.
"However, we look at these as opportunities," he said.
"The opportunity to advance and evolve into new frontiers of development and contribute to the global innovation ecosystem and ensure that we play our distinct role is our priority."
Shaikh Mohammed said that the Innovation Bahrain event was a starting point.
"This event has brought together a distinguished audience of regional and international industry leaders and strategic thinkers to identify and discuss the future through innovation, and more importantly how we can get there," he said.
Bahrain's Vision 2030 has clearly spelled out this objective and the goal is to transition to a knowledge-based economy, added Shaikh Mohammed.
"Through innovation, Bahrain can ensure that we strategically position ourselves to make this a reality and effectively invest in the growth and development of our private sector and human capital," he said.-TradeArabia News Service