Life Sciences Discovery Centre planned in Oman

NEW LANDMARK: Conceived as an exclusive showcase centring on life sciences, the Centre will incorporate as many as 10 different facilities each with their distinctive value proposition

Muscat’s splendid urban landscape with its delightful assortment of historical monuments, sumptuous cultural, educational and religious edifices, and other imposing structure, will soon have another striking living landmark: the Oman Life Sciences Centre.
Covering an area of around 380,000 sq metres, this one-of-a-kind complex will serve as a national showcase of Oman’s rich and diverse plant and animal genetic resources.
Complementing this unique facility will be a range of educational, R&D, edutainment, recreation and leisure, hospitality, healthcare and rehabilitation, and other related components that will make it a striking new destination.
Development of the state-of-the-art facility is being spearheaded by Oman Animal and Plant Genetics Resources Centre (OAPGRC), a specialised agency of the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation.
The entire development has been conceived by Oman-based Integrated Development Solutions (IDS) within the framework of Oman’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) Law administered by the Ministry of Finance.
OAPGRC was established by Royal orders in 2012 specifically to advance the sustainable use of animal and plant genetic resources through education, research and innovation.
Its primary mission is to promote the recognition, sustainable utilisation and value of the genetic diversity inherent in Oman’s animals, plants, marine life and microorganisms as a natural heritage resource.
“There are compelling economic, social and environmental drivers for a more robust and concerted Omani response to animal, marine, microorganism and plant challenges, which are of critical importance to protecting and enhancing the Sultanate’s prosperity and well-being.
“Several years in the planning, the Oman Life Sciences Centre seeks to bring to life the core tenet of OAPGRC’s mandate: ‘Transforming Genetic Resources into Value’,” said Dr Nadiya al Saadi, Executive Director.
“It will serve as a hub for a full spectrum of activities and services covered by our mandate, from developing the capabilities of our human resources and providing our researchers the opportunity to work in a science and technology-focused environment, to promoting the concept of human well-being.”
Conceived as an exclusive showcase centring on life sciences, the Centre will incorporate as many as 10 different facilities each with their distinctive value proposition.
In addition to the centrepiece Oman Animal and Plant Genetics Resources Centre, the complex will also include the following: Life Sciences Exhibition and Conference Centre, International School of Science and Technology, Science and Technology Teaching Academy, Discovery Centre for Children with Special Needs, Teaching Academy for special needs educators, caregivers, and parents, and Centre for Neuro-Recovery and Rehabilitation.
Adding a sizable edutainment and leisure dimension to the centre are: an all-access Science and Fun Water Park, full dome Zeiss planetarium, full dome IMAX theatre, and Eco-heritage Resort Village.
The erstwhile Research Council, now part of the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, has enthusiastically promoted the idea of an integrated Life Sciences Centre in the Sultanate.
OAPGRC’s lead partner in the conception, design and delivery of the signature project is Integrated Development Solutions (IDS), Muscat-based development strategists and land economists in partnership with Earc Sabla Architects and Engineers.
The company’s CEO, Eng Michael A Katz, who is a longstanding investor and resident of the Sultanate, said: “With our extensive and diverse expertise in mixed-use developments, IDS has come up with a winning combination of income-generating education, healthcare, recreational and leisure elements to implement and operate a truly landmark project on a financially sustainable basis for the long-term.”
He further added: “All of the individual components of the project will complement each other to create synergies that will position the Oman Life Sciences Centre as a national landmark.”
Every aspect of the project’s design and construction is at the highest levels of sustainability principles, according to Jamal al Zeedi, Principal, Earc Sabla, Architects and Engineers.
“We have taken a comprehensive green building approach to the entire Oman Life Sciences Centre Development. A ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life,” Al Zeedi said.
Distributed across the sprawling complex will be dedicated spaces for all types of human activity that will benefit from the project’s biophilic design, which Eng Michael Katz described as a human’s innate attraction to nature. This concept has been recognised for several decades by the scientific and design communities, and intuitively for hundreds of years by the population at large, he noted.
“We believe that incorporating nature into the built environment is not just a luxury, but a sound economic investment in health and productivity, based on well-researched neurological and physiological evidence. In our development planning, we illustrate how small investments involve very low or no up-front cost, such as providing employees access to plants, natural views, daylight, and other biophilic design elements,” he stated.
“The Oman Life Sciences project is a unique combination of both meeting country-needs for the Sultanate of Oman as well as the potential for strong financial rewards for investors. It is rare to find ESG compliant investment opportunities which offer such a combination of economic benefit as well as good corporate citizenship,” said Paul Callaghan, Partner, Moore Oman.
Significantly, a number of state pension funds and other government investment bodies have confirmed their interest in participating as shareholders in the PPP-based project, Eng Michael Katz said, adding that there has also been significant interest from international ESG investment and finance groups.
The Oman Life Sciences Centre is expected to be fully operational by early 2024.

 

CONRAD PRABHU
@conradprabhu