Secretary General, The Research Council
The main focus is on supporting both students graduating from higher education institutes and SMEs in developing their own businesses rather than looking for jobs within the government sector. The Research Council has initiated several Innovation Assistance Programs and participated in the establishment of venture capital funds. However, our most important contribution is the National Innovation Strategy because of its role as a linking platform. Most of our effort goes into creating synergy among our target actors, rather than having their efforts be scattered and duplicated. For now, we are in the early stages of development, and there is a great deal of learning to be done, especially in regards to stabilizing the system. Sometimes we launch programs as pilots to assess their success rate without much risk involved. For example, with IPM, we now have incubators that provide guidance and support and a platform to help entrepreneurs enter the market with as little risk as possible.
General Manager, Sharakah
We support SMEs and help them by providing financial support, and we have different schemes to accomplish that. Generally it is through a loan, equity, or bill-discounting scheme. Currently, we offer up to OMR200,000 (USD519,600) in loans and are considering increasing the size of investment per SME. We also provide post-finance services for SMEs to ensure they grow and sustain in the market. Every year we provide financial support to an average of 12 SMEs, and in 2016 we financially supported 17. The sectors with the most SME growth are trading, services, and manufacturing. We seek to increase the number of manufacturing SMEs as the manufacturing sector provides more support for economic growth. We expect a greater percentage of goods being manufactured locally using local resources to be exported regionally or internationally. Trading is the exact opposite; everything is brought in from foreign markets and sold on the local market.
Directing General, Malak Al Shaibani
NBC is one of the elements of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Oman. We are a mixed-use facility and incubator. Approximately 90% of new businesses fail in the first year and incubators help to reduce this rate. NBC was created to be a working place for new start-ups. We provide them with training, coaching, mentoring, and facilities to work from. They graduate from our program when the idea becomes a small business, with four or five employees and stable revenue. As far as NBC is concerned, we are looking to be sustainable as an incubator and want to continue working with our partners and to do more work outside of Muscat over the next five years. We do not want to depend 100% on government funding. We build good relationships with partners and can provide many other services. We advise many companies and work with them, so it is a win-win situation for us all.
CEO, SME Development Fund
Our first effort involved providing training in colleges, not just about how to be an entrepreneur, but more importantly, changing the mindset. We started in four colleges, expanded to nine and then 15, and are currently in 25 colleges. At the end of 2017 we will be in 30, and by the end of 2018, we will be a national program in every college in the country. The program will also be rolled out in selected schools in due course. The fund is a public-private partnership, and our shareholders have capitalized OMR100 million (USD259 million). We are allowed to borrow thrice our capital, so theoretically there is USD1 billion available to lend to SMEs, since the availability of money is the biggest challenge for SMEs. The other part is to stimulate entrepreneurship, and for that, we receive grants under the offset program. Developing, supporting, financing entrepreneurs, and helping them to succeed in their business are how we expect to reach our target.
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