Saudi Arabia’s economy has depended primarily on oil revenue, with 80% of GDP comprising oil exports. The Saudi government recognized the need to diversify its economy and generate new revenue sources. They sought to accomplish this by increasing investment in R&D to encourage technological development and an entrepreneurial economy. Yet, because Saudi Arabia has traditionally imported technology via partnerships with multinational corporations, it has limited infrastructure and know-how to develop and commercialize technology-based innovations; it needed to bridge the gap between lab discoveries and commercial products.
We built a coalition of key stakeholders, known today as the Saudi Arabia Advanced Research Alliance (SAARA). This first-of-its-kind collaboration among industry, academia, and Saudi government entities exists to help develop and commercialize technologies to create economic impact.
SAARA created RPD Innovations, a commercial entity that carried out SAARA’s mission to create a Saudi-based, Saudi-staffed R&D center to transform research and technologies into economic benefit and impact. We provided the company’s initial leadership. In its first year, RPD’s team performed market and commercialization assessments for more than 50 technologies. They developed scale-up plans and commercialization strategies for eight of the technologies and identified industry interest for seven others.
As RPD advances these technologies and gains experience, our experts expect to see startup companies, manufacturing initiatives and product deployment of technologies developed in Saudi Arabia. Over time, these market activities will foster job creation, help increase GDP, and bring new opportunities for investment.