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Mission to be Accomplished

With skyrocketing economic growth over the past decade, Qatar has since been recognized as one of the fastest-growing developing markets in the world. In common with the rest of the GCC states, the primary factor of this growth has been the extraction and sale of the country’s hydrocarbon resources. However, the Qatari authorities have long recognized the vital importance of shifting the country’s economy from a hydrocarbon to a knowledge-based economy. Encapsulated in this overarching objective, Qatar is looking to establish itself as an R&D hub in the region. As such, one of the primary responsibilities of Qatar Foundation, led by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, has been to provide the necessary means to accomplish this objective. In so doing, Qatar Foundation set forth an ambitious strategy named the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS) in 2013, which is aimed at providing the framework for Qatar Foundation R&D’s goals and objectives, while also guiding the decisions to invest in areas of strategic importance to the country of Qatar. Qatar is enjoying explosive growth across the board in sectors including finance, infrastructure, transportation, and real estate. However, despite these successes, there are fundamental challenges unique to the country and region that must be addressed in order to ensure the sustainability of the economy going forward. As enumerated in 2013, Qatar Foundation has several grand challenges to the Qatari economy that must be addressed through R&D. One of the foremost grand challenges is the impact of geographical location and climate on the country’s fresh water supplies. However, the personal consumption of clean water is not limited merely to personal consumption. Compounding this challenge is also the fact that district cooling, the most energy efficient way of cooling buildings, takes a tremendous amount of fresh water to work. Therefore, the first of four challenges laid out by the Qatar Foundation is to develop, refine, and adopt enhanced desalination/waste water re-use capabilities of the country. Secondly, while Qatar controls an abundance of fossil fuels, a continual challenge is balancing the country’s domestic consumption of electricity that is locally produced, with the hydrocarbon resources that it wishes to export to generate foreign revenues. As a solution, Qatar is turning toward renewable energy alternatives in order to ease the demand of electricity production by way of domestic hydrocarbons. With this, Qatar is aiming to research and develop unique and geo-specific solar energy solutions in order to ensure the energy security of the country for years to come. Allaying both Qatar’s water security and energy security challenges are at the forefront of Qatar Foundation’s mission and objective as outlined in the research strategy. To this end, Qatar Foundation has moved toward solving these challenges by both establishing the Qatar Environment & Energy Institute (QEERI) and building a state-of-the-art research and development complex. Qatar Foundation’s R&D complex is composed of 223,000sqm research buildings spanning from integrated sciences, fundamental sciences, vivarium, translational, and mesoscience buildings. It is one of many buildings in the newly developed Qatar Foundation’s research campus that hosts a number of international universities and other research centers. The first phase, already completed, is composed of 45,000sqm housing research areas addressing Qatar’s grand challenges in both water and energy security, along with healthcare. QEERI, one of the prominent tenants of the R&D complex, will be undertaking extensive research in water and energy security through the complex’s laboratories of water desalination, membrane analysis and development, photovoltaics, energy storage, smart grid, and many more. With these facilities and a top-notch team of international scientists and researchers already in place at QEERI is moving toward solving these fundamental challenges of the country’s economy, which stand in the way of sustainable growth going forward.

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