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Saad Al Muhannadi

QATAR - Health & Education

Solid Groundwork

President, Qatar Foundation

Bio

Saad Al Muhannadi was appointed President of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development in September 2013. His previous role was as Vice-President for Capital Projects and Facilities Management. He holds a degree in Architecture from the University of Miami and began his career with the Ministry of Municipality and Agriculture as Head of Design Development. He is also a founding member of the Board of Directors at Msheireb Properties.

"The mission of our organization is to unlock human potential."

Qatar Foundation (QF) has been an essential part of Qatar’s rise to prominence. What changes will your leadership bring to the organization’s strategy?

I have been closely involved with the operations and building of the QF since 1995. I believe that my experience and intrinsic understanding of the unique needs of my nation, its youth, and the vision and mission of QF will be vital in carrying forward the legacy of success and prominence that has been established by Qatar’s wise leadership and my predecessors at QF. My role as the new President of the QF is part of the natural evolution that takes place within a maturing organization that seeks to refine its strategic objectives without altering its overarching mission. Our ongoing aim is to promote a culture of excellence in Qatar and to advance it by developing sustainable human capacity, as well as social and economic prosperity that can benefit the local and international community. My intention is to continue cultivating and nurturing the needs of this globally respected institution and the people that constitute the heart of our nation. In my earlier role as Vice-President of Capital Projects and Facilities, I worked alongside an energetic team to ensure the effective planning, design, construction, and maintenance of all QF buildings and supporting infrastructure on its 15 million sqm campus. The site today has the biggest collection of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings in the Middle East, which is an unprecedented achievement. This is a reflection of the innovative excellence that Qatari leaders seek to bring to the nation today. Having served as a member of Qatar Foundation’s Board of Trustees, I intend to ensure that every member of the organization continues to play a pivotal role in achieving the key pillars and vision set forth by Qatar’s leadership. Our collective aim is to transform Qatar into a knowledge-based economy by 2030, capable of sustaining its own development for generations to come.

Becoming an R&D hub is one of Qatar’s key goals. What additional steps is the QF planning to take to achieve this in the coming years?

Qatar has made a commitment to be a leading global center for R&D excellence and innovation. Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D) is spearheading this national endeavor as a world-class hub for technological innovation and prominent research institute that is operating at the frontiers of science. QF R&D oversees several capacity-building initiatives, which aim to support and sustain a vibrant ecosystem of research and innovation in Qatar. The QF considers research to be a catalyst for expanding and diversifying the country’s economy, enhancing the education of its citizens and the training of its workforce, and fostering improvements in the health, wellbeing, environment, and security of people in Qatar and across the world. Part of our strategy for the coming years will be to further strengthen the role of our youth in the midst of a stimulating, research-based environment. Our goal is to provide them with the training and discovery-orientated education that is necessary to become leaders in science, business, government, and a range of other sectors in Qatar. To further our mission of developing a thriving scientific culture in Qatar and across the region, we have implemented, and will continue to expand upon, a multitude of initiatives that benefit students and researchers both in Qatar and abroad. QF R&D recently launched its first PhD program, entitled the Qatar Foundation Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Energy Sciences. This competitive doctoral program is a collaboration between QF R&D and Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), the first university to join the program, and will provide its graduates with an excellent platform for a successful career in the field of energy sciences. Through the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF)—a member of QF—we run a number of funding programs aimed at providing opportunities for young researchers. QNRF recently launched the Graduate Student Research Awards (GSRA), a new funding program that will help to develop human capital in research for Qatar, and encourage PhD programs inside the country. Our aim is also to build a collaborative research culture. At this year’s Annual Research Conference (QF ARC’13) we will once again be engaged in problem solving by bringing together renowned researchers, academics, and scientists with the aim of finding solutions to challenges outlined in the Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS). Crucial themes will be explored and addressed, among which are the protecting Qatar’s cyber infrastructure, developing and deploying solar energy solutions, ensuring sustainable food supply, and supporting Arabic culture, arts, heritage, media and language. Qatar’s research culture continues to thrive and we are greatly encouraged by the increase in student participation at the Annual Research Conference year after year, reflected in the quantity and quality of student research that is presented. We intend to ensure that the nation’s research needs are prioritized and that we can nurture Qatar’s innovations from conceptualization to commercialization.

Qatar Foundation has made extensive use of joint ventures and partnerships over past years. How effective has this strategy been, and how will you develop this approach in the future?

We believe that this strategy has been highly effective and valuable to all parties. The QF sets up joint ventures with well-respected global partners and forges strong partnerships with institutions that share common values. This approach has served us well and we intend to continue collaborating with like-minded partners in order to advance our mission and the objectives outlined in Qatar National Vision 2030. Thanks in large part to the steadfast commitment and support of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of QF, we have been able to develop the creative potential of our young people by collaborating and working with renowned institutions across the world. We actively seek to build new alliances and partnerships throughout the year by organizing networking opportunities, conferences, and gatherings that bring together academics, researchers, and experts from the public and private sectors. We also invite leaders from across the world to visit Qatar Foundation’s numerous centers, which allows us to develop further connections. I believe it is imperative that we continue to build and develop platforms for knowledge exchange and to expose students to experiences and skills that will help them become the country’s future leaders. A few of our successful partnerships include the launching of an exclusive training program in partnership with the University of Oxford’s prestigious Saïd Business School earlier this year, which has been designed to enhance the expertise of our top-tier managers. The program has been carefully tailored to suit QF’s strategic objectives and will help our leaders apply their problem-solving skills to address complex challenges. Our partnership with the Economist Group has also been fruitful and has flourished through a series of engaging discussion-based forums and events. Our closely aligned values and goals have formed the basis of our relationship and this has allowed our employees to benefit. Our students have also taken part in enlightening internship program, through which they learned key skills that will prove vital to their ongoing education and future careers. Qatar Foundation’s partnership with FC Barcelona has also encouraged people all over the world to follow their passions through the pursuit of excellence in sports and education. By extending many of the positive values from sport to youth of all ages, the QF and FC Barcelona have succeeded in fostering a spirit of teamwork and healthy, active lifestyles.

“The mission of our organization is to unlock human potential.”

The environment is a major concern for countries across the globe, and the QF has made environmental sustainability central to its activities. How is the Foundation working to achieve a higher level of sustainability in Qatar, and what role will technology play in promoting it?

The QF is committed to sustainability and its centers are actively involved in numerous areas of research, technology, and education. They also promote international collaborations that support the development and implementation of sustainability ventures. The QF is eager to strengthen public awareness by creating a landscape that is conducive to learning about environmental protection. This is being achieved through the use of environmentally sound technologies and values, and by implementing beneficial research to mitigate any adverse effects on our surroundings. The environment is one of Qatar National Research Strategy’s key pillars and we are keen to advance this area of study. In December of last year, the QF launched a strategic partnership with the globally renowned Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), to set up the region’s pioneering Climate Change Research Institute and Global Climate Change Forum in Doha. We believe the creation of a world-class research institute that specializes in the field will help tackle the impact of climate change and improve the science and technology available to address this global challenge. Some of the important research topics that will be explored by the new institute include water systems, ecosystems, food production, public health, and sustainable urban development. The institute will seek to fill critical gaps in research on mitigation, adaptation, and climate resiliency for key regions such as tropics, sub-tropics, and dry lands. Furthermore, through the efforts of the Qatar Green Building Council—a Qatar Foundation member—we are striving to effectively integrate green building practices in all of our developments and this is a true testament to Qatar’s growth and advancement in the field. All QF properties play a major role in minimizing the carbon effect by using sustainable technologies and every building at the development stage has been designed with the environment in mind. The unique student complex at QF is a perfect example of sustainable living. It has been equipped with solar-paneled roofs and wind turbines that generate energy in 10-kilometer gusts or higher. Its 12 buildings make up the highest concentration of independently registered platinum LEED buildings as acknowledged by the US Green Building Council, and the only student housing complex anywhere in the world to have achieved this benchmark. With human behavior posing a substantial challenge to sustainable living, a monitoring system has also been installed in each housing unit to help students track their own energy and water consumption. This project serves as a valuable tool for students, as it engages and teaches younger generations about sustainability and encourages accountability toward the environment. By sharing knowledge with our students and fostering collaborations, we are confident that we can build the technology required to address the challenges at hand, to adapt and to mitigate environmental risks.

The QF is well-known today for its achievements not only in education, but also research, health, culture, and even real estate and construction. How will you ensure that the Foundation’s contributions have an impact across Qatar’s economy and culture?

The mission of our organization is to unlock human potential. Our main priorities have been designed to serve a national purpose and to have a widespread impact on Qatar’s economy and culture. At QF, creativity, intellect, and critical thinking are foremost, and ensuring the development of human capital will remain our key focus. The transformation to a knowledge economy is progressing well and we have made significant headway over the past decade. I believe that by equipping the Qatari youth with every opportunity possible and offering them a wide range of resources to tap into their potential we can ensure their increased participation in the workforce and in the development of the country’s economy. We have every intention of continuing to build a solid platform for progress and innovation, while fostering a culture of quality and excellence that can benefit our region and the wider world.

What legacy would you like to leave Qatar Foundation with?

As Qataris, we take great pride in our nation’s deep-rooted traditions and enduring history. There is immense opportunity for the youth today and we have been entrusted with their future. We are all united in creating the most sustainable path for their development—one that is compatible with the vision of our country’s leadership and the aspirations of our people. The QF is a beacon of knowledge today and will remain so for generations to come. We aim to create an even better and brighter future for our youth by nurturing a passion for education and enlightenment, while keeping in mind the heritage of our beloved nation. That is the legacy we all want to leave behind and one that I am certain will make our children proud.

© The Business Year – January 2014

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