Ideas are like moulding clay. Without skillful fingers to mould it into different shapes, it remains an amorphous pile failing to inspire anybody. The idea factory that has opened in Muscat lends the vital skilled fingers to give shape to ideas of budding innovators. That beauty of the concept is in its simplicity. The Innovation Factory (IF) is equipped with advanced digital fabrication equipment to give shape to ideas. Budding innovators can take IF membership and use the equipment to construct the prototype of the device they have in mind. The added bonus is that it costs just 3 rials a week. As Firas Bin Khamis Al Balushi, Founder and CEO of IF, says: “If you have an idea, become a member of the Factory for as lows as 3 rials a week. Then if you know how to use the lab, go ahead and develop your prototype. But if you do not know enough of computing and design, follow our five-step process and you will have your functional prototype.” Balushi’s catch line is that ‘anyone can become an innovator’. It’s so true, because his factory is open to all residents – citizens and expats. The ideators’ ideator has gathered together 3D printers, laser cutters, water jet cutting machine, computer numerical control systems, hand tools, and other accessories that can make ideas fly, on his premises in Knowledge Oasis Muscat. The bonus for the innovator is that he or she retains the intellectual property of the invention while IF could even extend its expertise in finding commercial and marketing solutions. That would allow any startup to hit the deck running because IF experts can remove all headaches that the innovators usually face. Balushi deserves all praise for having come up with such a path-breaking idea that can change the face of innovation in the Sultanate.
While throwing open IF, Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Dr Ali Bin Masoud Al Sunaidy said: “Today we’re celebrating the achievements of Omani inventors, and we’re looking forward to see the IFC as a place of turning dreams into reality, as well as serving its aim of encouraging young Omanis to innovate and care.” He is absolutely right because such facilities provide the right creative environment where nebulous ideas can be incubated and nurtured into commercially marketable products and services. Innovation is recognised as the prime driver of excellence. Innovation presupposes the existence of a talent pool, which the Sultanate has in abundance. Such an innovation facility will allow monetisation of intellectual capital of the nation. Research is a highly resource intensive activity and results unpredictable. Any support that lessens the burden of potential entrepreneurs is always welcome. As is often the case, entrepreneurs find projects unsustainable because of the high overheads involved in converting ideas into reality. By the time a project hits the runway, it would have accumulated quite a lag in terms of financial burden because of the product development phase. Such debilitating financial burden can be avoided with the help of facilities like the innovation factory. The initial development phase could be covered at minimal cost as IF shares the burden. IF will also help foster entrepreneurship among the youth of the Sultanate.