The Business Year

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Aggressive investments in R&D are pushing the bounds of IoT, big data, and analytics coming out of leading Saudi universities.

Dr. Faisal Al-Allaf

CEO, Wadi Makkah

We have achieved a number of goals and recently put a five-year plan into place. Our land has been licensed according to Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON) industrial standards, which means Wadi Makkah is now like a free zone and no longer part of Umm Al-Qura University. It does away with a great deal of the bureaucracy we used to have, giving us more freedom and investors a great opportunity. We have also launched our incubator and accelerator portals, which are new additions to our ecosystem of entrepreneurship. We improved the structuring of our deal flow compared to what we used to do before, which will allow us to have big data on a number of trends and initiatives in Saudi Arabia. What’s more, a great deal of analytics can be done based on the information in the portal. We also offer a new summer training program, where 15% of our participants find a job within a week of completion.

Dr. Ateq AlGhamedi

CEO, Wadi Jeddah

The government had typically financed all education systems, including tertiary ones. Since 2010, the new goal has been to transform universities to non-profit organizations and self-sustaining entities. In order to do so, universities required an investment arm. The government issued a number of decrees establishing four “wadis”, which means valley in Arabic, in Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah, and Mecca. Wadi Jeddah was established to help King Abdulaziz University (KAU) invest in its assets, be they intellectual, land, labs, or intellectual property (IP). In a knowledge-based economy, it is sensible for universities to capitalize on these. The outcome of this process can be in many forms: products, patents, knowledge, or software. We have many great projects. For example, I-one is the first of its kind in the Western region of the Kingdom. It produces fluorodeoxyglucose for isotopes to be given to patients with certain types of cancer. This project was established three years ago and will officially be launched in 2018.

Khalid Al Saleh

CEO, Khalid Al Saleh

We have venture capital investment with which we will focus on three major areas, namely renewables and green technologies, ICT, and health and life sciences. When going into the field, we consider anything that will bring strategic value to the university or country. We are now taking on the responsibility to operate a national diabetes center that is under construction. It is our responsibility now to furnish it, bring in the equipment and operator, and have it up and running. We took control of the project at the beginning of 2017. We have done a comprehensive feasibility study with one of the major consulting firms, and the results were promising with regard to the market and potential profits. We are now looking for credible operators and international technical partners to ensure the quality. We want it to be the center for Saudi Arabia. Our aim is for the center to grow organically and spread into various branches.

Craig A. Smith

CEO, Dhahran Techno Valley Company (DTVC)

DTVC started out as a center for oil research back in 2000. We expanded from oil to oil and gas and later to a broader umbrella called energy. We are proud that Dhahran Techno Valley hosts the world’s largest collection of multi-national R&D facilities focused on the energy sector. While the concentration of oil and gas companies is high, we are now expanding to include other sectors within the energy umbrella: renewable energy, water issues, desalination, and water management. Our Science Park has also organically developed and become the strongest representation of upstream oil and gas companies. The world’s largest upstream service providers—Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, Weatherford, Sinopec—also have strong interests in automated systems and process controls. As crude oil is extracted from land and marine wells, the logistics and systems driving distribution and downstream activities will soon be based on completely automated control systems. This is ushering in a new era of the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).



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