Inaugural SABIC Day reaffirms KAUST-SABIC partnership

Bob Maughon (left) and Pierre Magistretti signing the charter for the SABIC-KAUST Technical Steering Commitee.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and global petrochemicals leader, SABIC, fortified their shared commitment to the Kingdom’s research, development and innovation (RDI) ecosystem during the first SABIC Day at KAUST. This informative gathering underscored the evolving role these respective academic and industrial behemoths play in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of a technologically advanced and sustainable growth economy. 

“The future of the SABIC-KAUST collaboration holds potential for an even deeper engagement that is focused on emerging areas that are strategic to SABIC, namely, the circular economy, carbon neutrality and differentiated solutions,” Dr. Bob Maughon, SABIC’s Executive Vice President of Sustainability, Technology and Innovation, told KAUST’s research community in his keynote address.  

Exploring broader petrochemical challenges and opportunities, the one-day gathering bolstered industry-academia ties, demonstrating SABIC as a scientific collaborator for KAUST and as a potential employer. “Ultimately, of course, the Kingdom benefits from this event,” Maughon added. “It helps to develop a highly skilled workforce in science and technology that can then apply the fruits of commercial innovation according to the guidance given by Vision 2030.” 

KAUST President Tony Chan stated: “As we celebrate SABIC Day at KAUST, we honor a significant milestone in the partnership of these two iconic Saudi institutions. SABIC’s immersive showcase at KAUST not only highlights the company’s exceptional products and technology, but also signifies a pivotal moment of collaboration. SABIC’s presence and investment since inception here on KAUST campus, underscores a commitment to innovation and sustainability, shaping a brighter future together with KAUST.” 

Dr. Najah Ashry, KAUST Vice President for Strategic National Advancement (SNA), said SABIC Day at KAUST epitomizes synergy between academia and industry, clearly aligning with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and KAUST’s own strategic aspirations. “Fostering mutual benefit and driving impactful innovations, collaboration between SABIC and KAUST cultivates a dynamic ecosystem that catalyzes transformative research to enrich sustainable growth.” 

KAUST leadership panel 

For the SABIC Day panel discussion, Dr. Pierre Magistretti, KAUST Vice President of Research, and Dr. Ian Campbell OBE, KAUST Vice President, National Transformation Institute (NTI), both emphasized the significant benefits of an ongoing KAUST-SABIC strategic alliance. Notably, the SABIC Technology Center (STC) at KAUST serves as a beacon, spearheading key advancements in chemistry, catalysis, engineering and cutting-edge materials solutions. 

“We foresee KAUST participating in the development of polyolefin research within the Kingdom, within the region and globally,” Magistretti said, adding the KAUST-SABIC relationship broadens the influence and scope of future projects, promoting entrepreneurship, facilitating technology transfer, and enhancing KSA innovation. “Our collaborative work in green chemistry and sustainable materials plays a critical role in the energy domain as we explore and develop technologies for alternative energy sources such as green hydrogen, solar and wind energy.” 

KAUST’s RDI-focused strategy narrows the divide between academic endeavors and industry’s practical demands, enhancing cooperation with entities such as SABIC, Campbell said, noting the NTI expedites technology development and market introduction in key sectors to broaden the Saudi economy. “The NTI is set to facilitate productive partnerships between KAUST and leading industry players like SABIC, propelling projects that are cutting-edge and also meet the direct needs of industries and society at large.” 

In his closing remarks, Dr. Nikhil Verghese, Corporate Fellow, T&I at SABIC, summarized the outcomes of the day and extended his appreciation to SABIC and KAUST leadership and participants. “We both started by building something out of nothing, and we both have emerged as powerhouses in our respective spaces. Today, SABIC has become one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world, and KAUST a globally recognized beacon for post graduate education.” 

Student experiences 

SABIC Day at KAUST offered an exclusive platform for KAUST’s research community to interact with SABIC’s pioneering innovations. At the SABIC Booth, attendees gained valuable insights into the company’s cutting-edge technological solutions and products as well as the areas of focus in the coming years. Moreover, they had a chance to network with STC scientists, exploring potential avenues for professional growth. 

Fatimah Alsayafi, a KAUST master’s student studying applied physics, was one such person. The Saudi student said that SABIC’s focus on environmentally friendly material sciences is inspiring, recognizing KAUST’s collaboration. “I’m very interested in working with SABIC. In fact, I’ll try to have a visit to its center here at KAUST.” 

Prem Nayak, a KAUST Ph.D. student in Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE) from India, appreciated SABIC’s nuanced insights into green technology and opportunities for KAUST talent to positively impact the world through the petrochemicals sector. “I wanted to know more about this company that exists here at KAUST. It was a great opportunity to learn what they do here and to meet their people as well.”