By Saleh Fareed
MORE than the economic growth, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is about empowering Saudi youth, said Khalid Al-Falih, minister of energy, industry and mineral resources.
Speaking at the opening of the Innovation to Impact Roundtable, convened by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) which kicked off on Friday at the KAUST premises in Thuwal, Al-Falih began by recognizing the strong relationship Saudi and the US have long shared and the importance of the ongoing partnerships that are required to generate opportunities for the two nations, their peoples and the world at large.
“Vision 2030 sets out a strategic framework to create the Saudi Arabia of the future, complete with tangible KPIs and metrics, while extending the hand of partnership, collaboration, cross-investment and commercial opportunities to our friends, partners and colleagues around the globe,” said Al-Falih.
Highlighting the importance of the event, Al-Falih continued “The visit of President Trump to Saudi Arabia is a historical event and here at KAUST a large group of thought leaders, students, academics and business executives from the US and Saudi Arabia are gathering to discuss the collaborations and intellectual opportunities needed to meet the pressing challenges of tomorrow.”
He added “ Today we are in a new era, focused on recasting the economy for the future and innovation by nature must be impact full within society and its economy if it is to be meaningful.”
President of KAUST, Jean-Lou Chameau, opened the Innovation to Impact Roundtable event with welcoming remarks. He said: “We are all accountable to our organizations to have an impact and here we are meeting today not only to discuss leading issues in science and technology but to find opportunities for youth.”
Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau added: “The discussions and sessions at KAUST today – from our students, our alumni and our honored guests — are guiding the partnerships needed for the diversification of research, knowledge and science innovation. We really feel honored of KAUST and all of our partners, especially KACST and SMEs, for bringing together this important event.”
The Chair and Co-Chair of the Roundtable, Dr. Turki Bin Saud Bin Muhammad Al-Saud, KACST president; and Dr. L. Rafael Reif, president, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); set the stage for the day by further elaborating on the importance of discovering and implementing new partnerships and challenging participants to have frank discussions and an open and inclusive dialogue about the barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of an integrated innovation ecosystem involving our the nations.
“KACST’s role as a key supporter of this event is to ensure the growth of young Saudi research pioneers and entrepreneurs in the light of Vision 2030,” said Dr. Turki. “The roundtable today is doing just that and we are proud to serve as chair.”
Later at a press conference, Dr. Turki announced that KACST has signed during the roundtable 7 contracts with some of the top American universities and companies.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ghassan Ahmed Al-Sulaiman, governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, lauded the several proposed strategies and contracts forged during the roundtable to achieve the mutual goal of supporting the Saudi entrepreneurs.
Alongside the main stage, more than 100 students were also participating in the overall event through a day-long STEAM competition where they generated the next big idea toward “Reimagining Education for the Digital Age.”
The afternoon events included several roundtables focused on identifying contributions that can be made to improve the innovation environment and strengthen the ties of invention and entrepreneurship between the two nations — all with an eye toward achieving a tangible positive impact on our economies and our societies.
Following the roundtable, several attendees including delegates and KAUST alumni joined the weekend events in Riyadh where they will share the ideas and progress made at Jeddah in an effort to continue the momentum toward generating opportunities for our two nations and their peoples and positively impacting the wider world around us.