SARNGADHARAN NAMBIAR –
When Bob Iger, the CEO of Walt Disney, observed that “the heart and soul of a company is creativity and innovation,” it was just a case of stating the obvious. It’s not just companies, even communities and countries can progress only by adopting a culture of innovation, which is now recognised as a key driver of economic growth.
A global analysis of the innovative capabilities and achievements of different countries is of great interest to multiple stakeholders. The Global Innovation Index (GII) — a collaborative effort of Cornell University, INSEAD Business School, the World Intellectual Property Organization and knowledge partners — is a measure of innovation across the world and looks at how innovation can be used to better serve society and address myriad challenges.
The Index offers detailed innovation metrics for 126 economies (representing 96.3 per cent of global GDP), and serves as a framework for countries to enhance innovation performance. The GII 2018 report underscores the need to prioritise policies that foster new sources of innovation-driven growth, and to boost investments in innovation, especially in breakthrough energy innovations so that global growth is maintained and environmental crisis is thwarted.
As such, the significance of the improved ranking that the Sultanate achieved in the Global Innovation Index (GII) — 69 as against 77 last year — can’t be overemphasised. Oman has done exceptionally well in a few of the GII criteria, especially the number of patent applications, which rose by 6 per cent last year compared to the year before.
The government aims to make Oman one of the top 40 innovative countries in the world by 2020, and propel the nation into the top 20 by 2040. Omani innovators get strong support from the Industrial Innovation Centre (IIC), which guides them on how to protect their ideas and innovations and register them with the Intellectual Property Department.
IIC has launched four programmes including the annual training of 100 innovation specialists, establishment of innovation-based start-ups, supporting the existing innovation-based companies and reviewing winning projects.
Also, The Research Council of Oman’s (TRC) Industrial Innovation Strategy focuses on 10 key areas to boost innovation: education; research and development; localisation of knowledge and technology; production and commodities; knowledge management; information readiness; consulting services; local marketing; standardisation and follow-up; and harmonised policies.
TRC’s diverse projects have greatly inspired young minds to be innovative. Beyond innovation competitions, it has launched ‘Upgrade’ that helps transform innovation-based graduation projects in the ICT sector into startups.
TRC also established the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry Innovation Award towards creating an enabling environment for innovators.
Innovation Park Muscat is yet another project by TRC that encourages scientific research, innovation and collaboration between the academic and industrial sectors across local and international communities. The park provides innovators with access to key facilities, services and talent, empowering innovators and entrepreneurs to develop outstanding ideas and products.
As a result of such diverse efforts involving different agencies, we see a renewed vigour in research and innovation in the Sultanate.
Recently, Omani inventors Duhi bin Jamal al Barwani and Ahmad bin Hilal al Sinani won silver medals at the 9th International Invention Fair held in Kuwait. Al Barwani was recognised for his portable hydro-powered welding machine, which also won a silver medal at International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva in 2014, while Al Sinani was honoured for his Sitar Tsunami, which breaks mechanical waves in water, dissipating the devastating power of powerful waves including tsunami.
Another Omani inventor is Abdulaziz bin Hamdan al Kalbani, who invented a means to produce fuel for coal production by using discarded wood.
The project won recognition in the Bahrain Entrepreneurship Awards. Al Kalbani is working to power the machines by solar energy and waste water.
Meanwhile, Omar al Jabri invented a robotic arm that can help people with paralysed arms. Further, three young Omani women Heba al Ghafri, Sharifa al Qaitaiti and Faiza al Khathiri successfully developed a hair cream that reduces hair loss and thinning.
The list of Omani innovators and their path-breaking inventions is quite long. It reaffirms that the Sultanate is well on its way to becoming a regional innovation hub.