A New Model for Technology Transfer: Making an Impact in Saudi Arabia

Author: Dr. Kevin Cullen, Vice President of Innovation & Economic Development at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Innovation is at the heart of King Abdullah University for Science and Technology’s (KAUST) mission. Few universities, if any, have been founded with as unique and clear a vision of addressing our shared global challenges of food, water, energy, and the environment through education and research. As part of that mission, the KAUST Innovation department helps put this knowledge to use by enabling our researchers and faculty to create products and services that will have an impact locally in Saudi Arabia and throughout the world.

We are recruiting ambitious and creative people to help build this technology transfer process, specialists who can help move our research innovations from lab to market in priority sectors such as water technology, alternative energy, petrochemicals, energy and biotechnology. With our world-class labs and facilities, expertise, and progressive IP policy we are actively partnering with leading global and local companies to create real impact.

Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Exchange at KAUST

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing profound economic and societal change. The country is ambitiously diversifying from an oil and gas economy towards a knowledge-based one. And, although only 10 years old, KAUST plays a key role in helping to achieve the Kingdom’s vision. By bringing ideas and technology out of KAUST and into local and global markets, we help solve many of the challenges facing industry and society in Saudi Arabia and around the world today.

Technology transfer and commercialization at KAUST is driven by a clear mission of getting research put to use and fostering local capacity for entrepreneurship. In this, KAUST Innovation forms a unique technology transfer department, supporting the entire spectrum of innovation from student development, global research partnerships, training, and commercialization. Facilitating all of these activities is a team of 60 industry, IP, and entrepreneurship specialists. Our scope of work is broad, and the size and experience of the team are a reflection of the ambition and expectations of the university in helping achieve the Kingdom’s innovation vision. 

Creating economic and social impact from research doesn’t just mean IP and licensing, it involves the translation of knowledge through a wide range of channels including research partnerships, consultancy and training. The Kingdom is aiming to grow SME contribution to the economy from 20% to 35% by 2030. To-date, over 160 startup companies have graduated from KAUST’s award-winning accelerator programs, Taqadam and 9/10ths. We have also have trained over 5,990 entrepreneurs in our innovation programs. As those numbers continue to grow, the entrepreneurs from these programs will begin to have a significant impact on the economy.

Our mission is ambitious. But so are the people that make up the fabric of KAUST, from our world-class researchers and scientists, to the raw, entrepreneurial talent coming through our programs. We are a community of problem-solvers, building a new ecosystem of innovation in Saudi Arabia.

As we continue to grow and expand the KAUST Innovation team, we are looking for talented technology transfer specialists who are as ambitious as the mission we are striving to achieve. We are particularly looking for expertise in company partnership development and early stage investment, but also for people with the skills, talent and ideas that can help us achieve our transformative ambitions. If this sounds like you, get in touch, we want to hear from you.

Contact us at innovation@kaust.edu.sa