SQU sets up sustainable energy research centre, nanotechnology research centre

MUSCAT: Sultan Qaboos University has recently announced plans to establish two new research centres at the university — the Sustainable Energy Research Centre and the Nanotechnology Research Centre.
According to Dr Rahma al Mahrooqi, SQU’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies and Research “The centres will make a valuable contribution to the university’s already impressive research infrastructure, which includes cutting-edge research programmes offered across all the university’s colleges, high calibre faculty drawn from across the world, an extensive array of support centres and units, and state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment. They will also complement the 10 existing research centres at the university that are an integral part of SQU’s research landscape.”
Prof Abdullah al Badi, Dean of Sultan Qaboos University’s College of Engineering, said, “The idea for establishing the Sustainable Energy Research Centre at Sultan Qaboos University was initially offered in response to the energy challenges that Oman faces both now and in the future as conventional fossil fuel resources decline while the country’s young population continues to grow. These concerns contribute to a growing need to diversify the country’s energy resources through the wider use of renewable energy sources. For these reasons, the Sustainable Energy Research Centre will engage in research related to the themes of energy policy and strategies, renewable energy, integrated electrical energy systems, and energy management. In doing so, the centre will help in recommending the right energy mix for the Sultanate — one that incorporates oil, gas, and renewables — to provide timely and detailed information to all concerned policy makers.”
Investigative areas that will be pursued by the Sustainable Energy Research Centre include those related to power generation and consumption, its rational use and saving, and its economic and social aspects. Projects in these areas can contribute to the realisation of more evidence-based decisions related to the country’s energy efficiency and energy policies. Oman’s current approach in these areas is currently undefined and fragmented; however, the research that will be conducted by the centre can help address this concern while also outlining the country’s next steps in terms of energy policy.
Prof Abdullah added, “In addition to these objectives, the centre will help build stronger communication between industry and academia. In this way, the Sustainable Energy Research Centre will act as the primary national research centre in its field, thereby contributing to economic development and diversification.”
Dr Rahma al Mahrooqi stressed that, “The Sustainable Energy Research Centre is an important illustration of Oman’s commitment to furthering research and innovation in sustainable energy in ways that benefit organisations in the public and private sectors and, ultimately, Oman’s people. By promoting the centre’s research, Oman can ensure that it stays on the forefront of developments in sustainable energy around the world, thereby helping it obtain global economic advantage while also contributing to the nation’s social well-being.” Like the Sustainable Energy Research Centre, the Nanotechnology Research Centre also grew out of the need to further investigative activity in an area of strategic importance for the Sultanate.
Dr Mohammed al Abri, Assistant Chair of the Nanotechnology Research Chair, stated that, “The Nanotechnology Research Centre represents the natural progression of the Chair in Nanotechnology for Water Desalination at Sultan Qaboos University, which was created by the Research Council and Sultan Qaboos University, into a fully-fledged research centre.
The transformation of the original Research Chair in this way was an important part of its founding objectives, and this process has been achieved in order to continue advancing Oman’s standing in the field of nanotechnology. This is a field that is of rapidly growing importance around the world due to its potential applications across almost all economic and social domains.” It is for this reason that nanotechnology research centres can be found in universities and other research-focused organisations in a diverse array of nations. These centres serve a variety of vital functions, and have the ability to help industry find solutions to complex challenges and issues.
Dr Mohammed further clarified that, “The Nanotechnology Research Centre at Sultan Qaboos University seeks to join these centres by becoming an internationally recognised centre of excellence in the field. It will do this by pursuing excellence in academia, industry, the economy and social engagement and by promoting the application of nanotechnology through research, capacity building and the dissemination of field-specific knowledge.”
The centre’s objectives include: providing research leadership and building human capacity in the area of nanotechnology, including in the areas of strategic planning, project development and planning, project management and the supervision of research staff and postgraduate students; promoting collaborative opportunities with other national and international institutions and research organisations; supporting educational and demonstration programmes that encourage the implementation of nanotechnology in governmental organisations and industry; and contributing to sustainable development at national, regional and global levels.
By advancing these objectives, the Nanotechnology Research Centre will act as the focal point for the university’s research efforts in nanotechnology throughout Oman, thereby enhancing efficiency and productivity. The Nanotechnology Research Centre will also help solidify the presence of the university regionally and internationally in the fields of nanotechnology. On a national scale, the centre will take an active role in attending to nanotechnology applications in industry and, hence, will serve as the primary house of nanotechnology expertise in the Sultanate. In particular, given its current expertise and facilities, the centre will focus on the core areas of medicine, agriculture and the environment, in addition to pursuing research projects in other areas that are intricately linked with Oman’s developmental activities.
Given the fact that the centre is growing out of an active Research Chair that is at the vanguard of nanotechnology research nationally and regionally, it is already associated with a number of research projects and consultancies that are set to continue for the next several years.
Dr Rahma stated that, “The Nanotechnology Research Centre is an exciting development in that it will be one of the first centres of its kind to be based in a national university in an Arab Gulf country. Through its establishment, not only will Oman be able to assume a leading regional role in the core areas of nanotechnology research that it pursues, but the country will also be making great strides towards transforming itself from one overly-dependent on oil and gas exports, to a knowledge-based society whose own progress can benefit the entire world.”
The university is currently seeking collaboration between its two newest research centres and organisations in the private and public sectors from across the Sultanate. This collaboration can take a variety of forms, including through supporting the establishment of research-oriented academic programmes at Sultan Qaboos University and conducting collaborative research projects and consultancies. In addition to these options, support can also be extended to the new centres by funding Research Chairs, which will be housed by them.
Research Chairs are positions appointed to professionally-active and specialised professors with strong academic track records in their fields. The Chair’s main focus is usually on research in their field of specialisation. Examples of current research chairs at SQU include the WTO (World Trade Organization) Research Chair, and the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry Research Chair in Economic Studies housed in the university’s Humanities Research Centre.
Proposals for establishing new Research Chairs to be hosted by the various research centres are ready and SQU has been seeking funding for these from organisations around the Sultanate to take an active role in this process welcomed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s office under which the university’s research centres operate.