The Business Year

Nawal Chraibi

MOROCCO - Health & Education

Nawal Chraibi

Bio

Focused on promoting R&D, MAScIR has grown over the years to develop and support state-of-the-art technologies that advances the Moroccan economy while supporting local talent as well.

What is the history of MAScIR?

MAScIR is a non-profit foundation launched in 2007 by the public authorities before joining University Mohamed VI Polytech ecosystem in 2020. Its main purpose is to promote industry as well as market-oriented R&D. Originally, the project was focused on three technology clusters: microelectronics, biotechnology, and nanomaterials. Today, we have 11 centers where skills and expertise abound. These centers focus on state-of-the-art technologies that advances the Moroccan economy. MAScIR is present in the health, agriculture, agri-food, renewable energies, and mining sectors. We work essentially with OCP Group, which is not only a strategic partner but is also our biggest client. We are also making our way into smart transport and smart cities.

How did the pandemic affect MAScIR’s work?

MAScIR has been around for nearly 14 years, and the health crisis has had an accelerating effect on us and our R&D. In particular, to reinforce health and safety, MAScIR developed a PCR test for COVID-19 in just three weeks, which has been validated by public authorities in Morocco and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. After 14 years and a significant financial investment, our foundation now serves the Ministry of Health and its entire network, and private laboratories. Previously, all kits for prevalent diseases in Morocco were imported. Now, we have validated diagnostic kits for leukemia, hepatitis C, HER2-positive breast cancer, and tuberculosis. We have also developed a near-infrared integrated handheld spectrometer. We are currently optimizing this device to enhance its specificity and sensitivity and ultimately use it as a diagnostic tool.

How would you characterize the importance of the Made in Morocco approach?

Today, more than ever, we have understood that we must develop locally made products. The pandemic strengthened our resolve and helped mobilize our scientists and engineers around the common goal of developing reliable solutions for a rapid economic recovery. Our aim is to continue to foster this local know-how to create jobs and to do so rapidly, competitively, and cost-effectively. Morocco aims to increase the industrial added value of medium- and high-level technology from 28% to 50% by 2035. One of our objectives here is to create job opportunities to attract the Moroccan diaspora and reverse the brain drain. We seek to attract the best talents by offering optimal working conditions, especially in the field of R&D. MAScIR employs 200 talented researchers, engineers, and technicians. Our second asset in line is our technological platform; MAScIR is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories that respond to the needs of three main clusters: microelectronics, biotechnology, and nanomaterials. We aim to strengthen MAScIR as a center for R&D excellence, not only nationally but internationally. Our scientific production is also becoming an area of interest. MAScIR has so far filed no less than 190 patents and 750 publications in renowned scientific journals. Over the years, our collaborations with industry have also been strengthened. Today, we have about 100 customer contracts with partners that have placed their trust in us and continue to do so.

How do you form the bridge between industry and academic institutions?

In academia, Morocco has excellent researchers and engineers. The challenge, however, is that they all-too-often work in academic and fundamental R&D subjects with limited or no immediate impact on the Moroccan industry. MAScIR’s main mission is to be the bridge between these two often disconnected worlds. The first element that enables us to build this bridge is our in-depth understanding of the economic, industrial, and academic ecosystem in Morocco. The second fundamental element is our technological platform, which is open to both the academic and industrial worlds. Finally, while MAScIR may not be a doctoral school, every year we welcome young graduate students from several Moroccan universities. This young talent is supervised by our engineers and scientist to work on industry-driven projects while at the same time they develop their technical, scientific, and creative skills.

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