Building an innovation ecosystem in the GCC

Tech Transfer and Innovation in the GCC

65 minute read
22 February 2022


'Innovation ecosystem' is a term used often but what does this really mean? To really drive innovation in the region, we need to first understanding the elements that come together to bridge that gap between research, innovation and economic impact.

In this on-demand webinar, we discuss the importance of intellectual property (IP), education and a focused effort in building an innovation ecosystem with experts from the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We also discuss the challenges for innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in leveraging their IP in the region and potential solutions to address these challenges. Founder of CardioDiagnostics, Ziad Sankari, also sheds light on his personal experience in trying to establish a tech start-up in the region.

Below are some of the key takeaways shared by the panellists:

  • Building an innovation ecosystem is not an overnight process - It takes time and managing expectations of stakeholders is important.
  • Accepting failure and learning from it is key to success - We need to embrace more start-up failure case studies as failure is more common than success for start-ups.
  • Improving the patent system is crucial for attracting innovative start-ups and SMEs to the region - This includes making patent data accessible and enforcement procedures more transparent.
  • There are too many fragmented efforts to support innovation in the UAE - This results in capabilities and resources being spread thinly and focus not being directed to core issues. We need a centralised 'innovation agency' which drives the nation's innovation strategy and is responsible for addressing the gaps in support IP protection, commercialisation and enforcement for universities, start-ups and SMEs.
  • Existing education systems do not support entrepreneurial thinking and do not support the development of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow - We need to introduce IP management, innovation and entrepreneurship courses early into the education system.
  • To promote IP awareness, some countries establish national IP centres - These provide education and tools to assist start-ups and SMEs with IP protection, enforcement and strategy development. Consider offering this as part of an innovation agency.
  • Avoidance of duplicating research efforts is important - We need to be more receptive to the concept of open innovation and consider investing in advanced research or innovation elsewhere.
  • Technology licensing in the region is a challenge - This is because of the limited access to local tech companies who will are willing to test and adopt new technology. Companies prefer to acquire start-ups who have 'done the work' i.e. validated a technology and its market.
  • We need incentives for local companies to utilise home grown technologies - This will help to shift the mind set of something 'made elsewhere is better'.


  • Tamara El-Shibib – Senior Patent and Tech Transfer Consultant, Gowling WLG
  • Tala Al Ansari - Director of Innovation Ecosystem District 2020, EXPO
  • Bowman Heiden - Visiting Professor at University of California, Berkeley & Co-Director for Center for IP, Chalmers University
  • Sean Flanigan - Director of Technology Transfer, KAUST
  • Ziad Sankari – CardioDiagnositics

Other webinars in this series

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