The Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) is looking towards its Proof of Concept Fund (POCF) programme to stimulate growth in the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector, QSTP director for Innovation Haya al-Ghanim told Gulf Times.
“We share the ambition and a belief in the economic power of SMEs. It’s no secret that a lot of Qatar’s economy is driven by oil and gas but more and more, we see wealth created in sectors other than oil and gas, and support for SMEs from the highest levels seems to be growing each day,” she said.
Asked about SME-driven economies such as the UK and their influence Qatar’s diversification strategy, al-Ghanim said tapping into the small and mid-sized economy would help Qatar lessen its dependence on hydrocarbon.
“While the composition of our economy is very different from the UK, for instance, the need is increasingly there and so we must develop solutions that make long-term economic sense.
“The POCF is one such solution, focused on Qatar. It is QSTP’s principle means for helping research institutes, universities, or SMEs, which we define as a company that has been around for less than five years and employs less than 50 people, prove that their ideas have commercial legs in the marketplace,” al-Ghanim explained.
According to al-Ghanim, QSTP awards technology-based companies competitive grants that help determine if a certain technology can make money.
“Though the programme has been around since QSTP’s inception, we recently enhanced eligibility requirements and are making a renewed push for SMEs to take advantage of the fund as Qatar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and the critical contribution of SMEs grow,” she explained.
Al-Ghanim added, “In the new version of the programme, we ensure that business development is carried hand-in-hand with the technical proof of concept. This way, we increase the success probability of having innovation-driven enterprises out the POCF.”
Qatar has made substantial investments in science and research, according to al-Ghanim. She added that the POCF aims to give researchers and businesses a chance to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of their innovations, “helping them move from the lab bench to the point where investors are ready to back it.”
“When the time comes to seek investment, having a project with a proof of concept can really set it apart from others having lowered the risk for other investors already, especially in a market where equity or ‘angel investing’ are less prevalent, meaning competition for investment is much more intense,” al-Ghanim said.
She further said the POCF was designed to support the commercialisation of leading-edge technologies from universities, research institutes, public institutions, and SMEs based in Qatar. Projects that qualify are late stage applied research and should be addressing commercial prospects.
“The overall objective is to facilitate the creation of high growth, innovation-based enterprises, which will contribute to the economic prosperity of Qatar. The POCF supports the realisation of novel technologies and ideas and explore their commercialisation opportunities.
“It is meant to facilitate Qatar-based research institutes and organisations to develop commercially-viable products and services, and encourage Qatar SMEs to innovate and develop new technologies,” al-Ghanim stressed.
Source: Gulf Times