Ocean economy to fuel growth of marine bio-industry in Oman

Muscat, Feb 16 – The underpinnings of a future marine bio-industry that harnesses the economic potential of seafood and marine organisms thriving in Omani waters continue to be fostered and expanded, according to key researcher involved in the effort. Dr Kawther al Balushi, who works in the Planning and Policy Studies Department of The Research Council (TRC), said a key foundation of this ambitious goal to incubate a marine bio-industry in the Sultanate is a knowledge-based platform that already has as many as 22 academic and research institutions, government bodies, companies, investment funds and start-ups supporting the initiative.

Addressing the ‘Ocean Economy and Future Technology’ held in Muscat last week, Dr Al Balushi said the establishment of R&D infrastructure in the field of marine bio-industries bodes well for the growth of a promising economic sector that harnesses the potential of the seas bordering the Sultanate. “The national framework related to R&D and innovation related to the marine bio-industry has already been established,” said the researcher. “Sultan Qaboos University, for example, offers many specialisations in the field of Marine biotechnology and majors in biological applied sciences. Likewise, the Colleges of Applied Sciences also offer similar programmes. So capacity building efforts have already commenced in the field of Marine biotechnology.”

Dr Kawther al Balushi

To complement these academic offerings, The Research Council has initiated several programmes to enhance collaboration between academia and industry in the field of Marine biotechnology, said Dr Al Balushi. One such programme is the Industrial Innovation Centre set up in 2009 to facilitate this kind of collaboration, she noted.

However, while the emerging marine bio-industry in Oman has attracted some start-ups, it currently lacks active players from the mid and high-tech segments of the industry, she pointed out. To address this shortcoming, The Research Council has joined hands with an international research university to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in the global marine bio-industry, identify benchmarks and best practices, and explore the potential for innovation in this sector.

The findings from this study will help investors, decision-makers, and industry executives have the requisite understanding to establish themselves in this emerging sector, notably by introducing value added products and diversifying their product range.  The marine bio-industry knowledge platform is designed to help new ventures acquire a thorough understanding of the market’s potential through collaboration with players across the ecosystem, she added.