Sohar innovation hub to spawn national manufacturing park in Oman

Conrad Prabhu –
A one-of-a-kind industrial design and prototyping centre currently under development at Sohar University has the potential to evolve into a National Manufacturing Park, according to a key official driving this ambitious project.
Prof Ghassan al Kindi, Director of Research and Industry Collaboration at Sohar University, said the proposed Advanced Research Manufacturing Centre (AMRC Oman) — first unveiled last November as part of Tanfeedh’s economic diversification programme — will eventually spawn the growth of a high-tech national industrial hub focused on precision manufacturing.
Speaking on the second day of the Industrial Innovation Forum organised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry yesterday, Prof Al Kindi said the facility has the potential to drive innovation and high-tech manufacturing across a number of existing and emerging economic sectors.
“AMRC Oman will be an important facility for parts prototyping, innovation support, precision manufacturing of parts, attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) by international manufacturers, and creation of downstream small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that produce high value products under the ‘Designed and Made in Oman’ brand,” he said.
The centre will be modelled on the lines of the hugely successful R&D hub of the same name in Sheffield, UK, the academic said, adding that Oman’s Ministry of Commerce & Industry, as well as a number of public and private stakeholders, are backing the initiative.
“The project, while drawing on the expertise of AMRC Sheffield, will combine human capital development and precision manufacturing to become a centre of manufacturing excellence for the Sultanate,” he said.
Part of its vision is to serve as a world-class design centre for new and cutting edge engineering products, as well as a machine tools demo facility, Prof Al Kindi said.
“The project will focus on high value manufacturing areas that will capitalise on, for example, the presence of steel, aluminium and plastics industries at Sohar.” 
“Most of the output of these plants is currently being exported without any value addition, something we hope to change,” he added. 
Among the areas that offer significant potential for the growth of high-value industrial manufacturing in the Sultanate are Oil & Gas, military industries, marble and ceramic processing, and the emerging automotive manufacturing sector, he said.
Further, with plans for a full-fledged national rail network on the anvil, the potential for rail-based manufacturing industries will be fully explored. Likewise, AMRC-Oman will also look at opportunities for high value manufacturing downstream of the large-scale petrochemical plants in operation or under construction at Sohar, he noted.
Additionally, AMRC Oman will double as an apprentice training facility and a hub for the delivery of improved manufacturing engineering training programmes up to PhD.
Phase 1 of the project, to be established on the university campus, is expected to be fully operational by 2018-end, said Prof Al Kindi. “Once Phase 1 of the AMRC Oman project produces fruitful outcomes, Phase 2 will start to develop a National Manufacturing Park, which is a specialised industrial area focusing on precision manufacturing. It will enable major international manufacturing companies to have a footprint in Oman, and will also provide essential services, such as design, testing, maintenance, training, and so on, to local industry,” he added.