Innovation has been recognised the world over as the prime driver of excellence. Innovation does not come easy. It takes real talent and economic resources to innovate. That is why research remains highly resource intensive activity with unpredictable results. The Sultanate’s drive for excellence has been behind its research promotion with The Research Council being the main driving force. But the government alone cannot sustain quality research as it is time and capital intensive. Therefore, the government decision to rope in private players to promote research must be welcomed. The wise leadership of the Sultanate has always been open to public-private partnership. This affords the private sector a definite role in nation building. Research is one area where contributions could be highly meaningful in the context of nation building. There is significant private sector contribution to research in renewable energy, water treatment technology and enhanced oil recovery. Such research will have a huge impact of sustainable use of resources. Recognising the contribution of the private sector, The Research Council Secretary General HE Dr Hilal Al Hinai says, “The Good thing is that we are seeing industry extend its hand to work close with the government and this will take the whole effort to a much higher level than what we were doing with government funding alone.” The infusion of more funds will ultimately benefit the nation’s profile as an innovating nation. The Sultanate is in the 73rd position on the Global Innovation Index. The nation’s strategy of focusing on areas that are of national importance must be appreciated. As Al Hinai says, the government has been promoting basic research while private funders are inclined to push applied research. The government knows the complementary nature of the two types of research and the need for both to proceed with the same intensity.
The Innovation Park coming up in Muttrah will surely be a major step in taking the quality of research to a higher level. Her Excellency Dr Madiha Bint Ahmed Al Shibaniyah, the Minister of Education, has always stressed the importance of the quality of education. Her Excellency is of the view that growth in research should not be just in the number of institutions but in their quality as well. The availability of high quality facilities in the Sultanate would also help retain talent as well as attract overseas talents. The nation’s near-universal education coverage at primary and secondary levels ensures that a large number of students go on to do well in undergraduate and post-graduate levels. It is imperative that such a huge talent pool has the facilities to acquire academic skills of the highest order. As researchers, they would be able to give back to the society several times of what the society spent on them in helping them hone their intellect. The Research Council itself funds a large number of projects picked up through a rigorous selection process. Last year the organisation extended funding to 41 top research projects from 180 submitted by students of 18 educational institutions. The Research Council must be commended for its efforts to nurture the spirit of inquiry in the student community. That spark of inquiry could in future become a passion for doing original research.