As the international community scrambles to innovate, uncover and fashion effective responses to the pandemic unleashed by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), designed to address various health, social and economic impacts of the scourge, the Sultanate of Oman is taking the plunge as well into this global effort.
In recent days, two leading institutions on the frontlines of research and private equity financing in the Sultanate have pledged funding support for indigenous research and technological initiatives that hold promise in the fight against the pandemic.
The Research Council (TRC), the Sultanate’s preeminent research agency, has invited pre-proposals for its COVID-19 Research Programme. Proposals may focus on clinical themes, such as therapeutics, diagnostics, role of telemedicine, psychosocial aspects and preventive strategies or non-clinical, such as the use of Artificial Intelligence, Monitoring Technologies, Emergent Tracking, Support Systems, Economic and Business Impacts, E-Learning, Crisis Management, Environmental Issues, and so on.
Stressing its preference for quick-wins, the Council said: “As COVID-19 is evolving extremely fast with huge social and economic impact worldwide, proposals focused on relevant realistic and short-term objectives as well as optimised costs will be given priority.” Interested researchers have until April 4, 2020 to submit their ideas.
On Sunday, Oman Technology Fund (OTF) , the Omani government-backed specialized fund for investing in startups and innovative ideas in the technology sector, announced RO 1 million in funding for tech initiatives that will help the local community stave off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Preference will be given to young Omani entrepreneurs and innovators with tech ideas that can be rolled out speedily and effectively, it noted.
OTF, launched in 2016, has so far invested in over 100 start-ups and initiatives in Oman and the wider Middle East region. At the weekend, OTF lent its backing to a new online portal to help Omani fishermen operating from the now shuttered Al Fulaij Wholesale Fish Market in Barka to offer their fresh harvest to traders.
Created by four talented Omanis, the portal, called ‘behar.market’, serves as an integrated electronic platform that allows traders to bid for fish offered for sale online – an initiative that has been widely welcomed following the closure of the wholesale market, in line with pandemic countermeasures implemented by the government.
Meanwhile, the Innovation Factory Centre (IFC), a pioneering Omani initiative behind the establishment of a unique digital fabrication and prototyping lab located in Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), is preparing to unveil a first-of-its-kind, automatic sterilising unit that can help individuals disinfect themselves from the coronavirus. Entirely designed by local Omani tech experts with local materials, the unit is like a walk-in cupboard fitted with a virus-killing UV-scanner.