TRC continues efforts in supporting research, innovation

MUSCAT: The year 2018 is looked at as a new era of research and innovation achievements, with the participation of everyone in the pursuit of building on recent successes in Oman. The year 2017 experienced remarkable efforts from the various sectors of The Research Council (TRC).
The Council continued to successfully introduce new initiatives, while, at the same time, continuing with its various partners from the public and private sectors, thanks to the strategic plan for the support of scientific research and innovation programmes.
The most important achievement of the past year was the approval of the National Innovation Strategy (NIS) by the Council of Ministers, which succeeded due to the considerable efforts of the committees and the concerned working groups comprised of experts from the government, private and civil society sectors.
Despite of the global economic conditions that have impacted all sectors, including the Council’s research and innovation support programmes, this crisis served as motivation for new solutions and partnerships that will eventually help achieve even better results in the future.
A main focus area of the Council’s efforts in 2017 was to build partnerships & collaborate with the private and public sectors by seeking to enhance the sustainability of the research and innovation support programmes, which have resulted in the execution of a number of initiatives.
Throughout 2017, TRC organised a wide range of research and innovation activities with local and international participation, with the aim of transferring knowledge, spreading the culture of scientific research, and providing an enabling environment, by building and strengthening partnerships with the government and private sector.
Despite the financial challenges, in order to achieve its strategic goals, The Research Council was determined to continue with the implementation of a number of programmes and projects; all of which have experienced varying developments.
Despite of the financial challenges, some of the research support programmes, such as the Faculty-mentored Undergraduate Research Award Programme (FURAP), continued funding research projects whilst other programmes have been cancelled, such as the Open Research Grants Programme and the Graduates Research Support Programme (GRSP).
A number of strategic research programmes were also terminated and the Council stopped funding the establishment of new research chairs.
The Sultanate’s ranking has made a positive progress in the Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2018, compared to the last year’s one. Oman has advanced 8 spots this year, reaching the 69th place in the GII out of the 126 countries involved, as compared to its 77th place in 2017. GII provides detailed metrics about the innovation performance of 126 countries and economies around the world, including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.
The first four research agreements generated through Ejaad, the platform to boost R&D collaboration between industry and academia in Oman, were signed on July 12.
The agreements, worth more than RO 300,000, were signed between the Ejaad platform, Sultan Qaboos University and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).
It is worth mentioning that 37 institutions from industry, academia and government have so far signed the Oman Energy R&D Protocol, which was initially signed between the Ministry of Oil and Gas, The Research Council and PDO on June 5, 2017, to collaborate and support research and innovation, and establish an efficient R&D partnership. Ejaad is the vehicle to materialise the protocol to reality.
More than 1,000 undergraduates have so far benefited from the Faculty-mentored Undergraduate Research Award Programme (FURAP) of The Research Council (TRC) that funded around 309 projects so far since the launch of the programme in 2013.
TRC has recently approved funding 58 undergraduate research projects, benefiting a total of 173 undergraduates under the FURAP.
In 2017, FURAP received 234 research proposals from 19 academic institutions.
Start-ups under the Upgrade programme that is supervised by The Research Council (TRC) were given the opportunity in 2017 to spend external training period to learn about the start-ups management model in the US business accelerator ‘Silicon Slopes’ for two weeks in Pelion Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that is based in the US.
Pelion firm invests in ICT start-ups at an early stage to help them achieve the goals of ambitious entrepreneurs through the investment of the energies of start-ups and provision of consultancies that are based on decades of expertise and practical knowledge.
The main purpose behind such experience was to get to know start-ups and their dynamic nature, which is required for their growth, in addition to the challenges facing all entrepreneurs everywhere in the world.
The young participants also participated in the Silicon Slopes Summit 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) Innovation Award was held for the first time in November, 2017. Using the slogan ‘Contribute your ideas for the development of your country’, the competition consisted of seven evaluation centres across the various governorates of the Sultanate.
The three winning projects of the award were: Glazing Ceramic and Pottery Industries by using Omani Tree Ashes, Leaf and Root Extract Based Ointments from Annona Squamosa and Their Effect on The Hair Re-growth and First Aid Jacket.
The OCCI Innovation Award aims to promote the cooperation between government and private sectors, with the academic sector institutions in Oman, and transfer innovative ideas into products and useful services.
It is worth mentioning that 460 Innovative ideas applied under the 7 evaluation centres.
Twelve students will represent the Sultanate in the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF), which will be held from July 25 to August 8.
Students’ participation at the LIYSF 2018 is funded by BP Oman, British Council, Al Habib & Co, Oman Shipping Company, The Anglo-Omani Society, BAE Systems and Supported by Oman Air as the National Carrier.
LIYSF is the first programme of its kind that target youth in the area of science, technology and innovation unlike many other local programmes.
Through LIYSF, TRC aims to build the capacity of young Omanis to expand their knowledge in the area of science and technology through their exposure to workshops, lectures and visits to UK’s leading universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College. In addition, they get the opportunity to attend lectures by leading international scientists from around the world. They also get the opportunity to visit leading laboratories and institutes, such as Airbus and Rolls Royce.
For the second year, due to the financial circumstances, TRC has halted the funding of research projects.
Since the inception of the programme, TRC has funded 159 research proposals, which included 63 PhD grants, and 139 masters’ grants.