Qatari women who are part of QF’s research, development, and innovation ecosystem talk about the need to build homegrown human capacity and create a more well-established RDI landscape in their country
It is said that innovations in science and technology is what will drive the engines of the 21st-century economy. As Qatar is transitioning to becoming a knowledge-driven economy, it is gradually building a scientific community that is self-sustaining. A COVID-19 Response Report published in December 2020 indicates that innovation will remain at the heart of Qatar’s economic transformation.
The RDI sector of QF is the very heart of Qatar’s progress which needs to continuously pump innovative ideas and drive Qatar to the future
On this transformative journey are two young Qatari women – Faiha A. Al-Qahtani, Project Management Specialist at Qatar Foundation’s Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI); and Fatima H. Al-Kuwari, Data Analyst, at QF RDI’s Qatar Genome Programme (QGP) – whose contributions in the research, development, and innovation landscape of Qatar is helping to fuel not just the nation’s development, but that of the region as well.
“All developed nations place great emphasis on their laws, policies, medicinal practices, and technologies, which are all fruits resulting from research, development, and innovation (RDI). Hence, the RDI sector of QF is the very heart of Qatar’s progress which needs to continuously pump innovative ideas and drive Qatar to the future,” says Al-Qahtani.
“QF’s vision is to secure Qatar’s future in the global marketplace by building a knowledge-based economy, rooted in our cultural heritage. To achieve such a vision, we need to find home-grown talent to help us fulfill this.”
For Al-Kuwari, who’s relatively new to both QF and the RDI scene in Qatar, she feels extremely enthusiastic about the efforts being undertaken in the country. She says: “The amount of opportunities and support available for researchers is very encouraging, and I am glad I can be part of it to create a more welcoming, ethical, and fair environment for new researchers and well-established ones.”
Al-Kuwari works at the QGP – said to be the largest genome project in the Middle East. The main mission at QGP is to promote genomic research and clinical implementation hand-in-hand with local researchers and international collaborators. All of this is done with the aim to build a centralized healthcare system, and for Qatar to be a leading country in precision medicine implementation.
One of the missions I am very proud of is how QGP has been, and still is, investing in building local human capacity
“One of the missions I am very proud of is how QGP has been, and still is, investing in building local human capacity by initiating two graduate programs in the field of genomics, working on knowledge translation and education programs, and providing workshops and internships for the youth of Qatar,” Al-Kuwari says.
Even Al-Qahtani’s work at QF RDI involves supporting and enriching the RDI environment in Qatar – specifically the innovation ecosystem. Al-Qahtani works closely with young, talented, and motivated local entrepreneurs regularly, listening passionately to their innovative ideas and their future aspirations.
She says: “The team and I interact with individuals both inside and outside of QF to further collaborate on potential ideas. This involves following up with bright prospective entrepreneurs in order to bring their ideas closer to the market.”
While QF has put tremendous effort to pave the way for more students joining RDI by establishing Education City, we still need other entities to join the nations’ effort
Both Al-Qahtani and Al-Kuwari have been passionate about science since they were in school. “I owe my deep interest in STEM to my mother, school teachers, and professors at university. They always believed that I could achieve so much. I remember when I was in grade 4, one teacher told my mother that her daughter could become anything she wanted do. Years later, I still remember her words and will never forget them,” Al-Qahtani says.
A QF graduate – Al-Qahtani completed her undergraduate studies from QF partner university Texas A&M University at Qatar – she believes that the motivational and a nurturing environment around her has strengthened her resolve to succeed.
Al-Kuwari, on the other hand, discovered that her interest in science, and more specifically in genetics, became more apparent during her high-school years. “I remember the first thing that sparked my love for genetics was a book about the theory of evolution and human diversity I bought during a book-fair school trip,” she says.
And while these young Qatari women found their path at a young age, as well as opportunities to pursue their passion, do they see Qatar’s RDI environment open enough to welcome and nurture the youth?
I do see more Qataris joining the RDI field. I meet new Qatari researchers in most, if not every, project I’m involved in, and I hope I can see more of us
“Yes, I do see more Qataris joining the RDI field. I meet new Qatari researchers in most, if not every, project I’m involved in, and I hope I can see more of us,” says Al-Kuwari. “From my personal experience, the limited job options for fresh graduates may be discouraging. I think what would help encouraging any fresh graduate is for institutes to offer more junior positions; giving fresh graduates a chance to benefit from the experience and mentorship of their senior team members.”
Al-Qahtani also believes that more are Qataris are joining the RDI ecosystem. She says she is surrounded by friends who share a similar passion for science and humanity, and that their motivation for doing so can be linked to cultural values that promote the importance of education and service.
However, despite Al-Qahtani’s optimistic view of more Qataris joining the RDI sector, she thinks there are roadblocks currently that can impede improvement. She says: “While QF has put tremendous effort to pave the way for more students joining RDI by establishing Education City – bringing world-class universities and building state-of-the-art research facilities – we still need other entities to join the nations’ effort.
“Moreover, we need to place positive emphasis on research, train individuals, and keep this effort going on for decades. This cannot be achieved in a few years. All great nations have established themselves so by continued effort and dedication. We need to re-emphasize these core values in the youth from a very young age with the help of parents, teachers, and communities. And QF has the means and capability to make this happen.”