KAUST Launches IP-Based Startup Accelerator Program in Saudi Arabia

KAUST has announced the launching of Hikma, a new Accelerator Program to help identify, develop and speed up the Intellectual Property-Based Startups. On March 21, 16 teams from KAUST and regional Universities took part in a three-day series of mentor-led workshops, which kicked off a 6-month process to accelerate their technology and startup development.

The new accelerator process is run by the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center with assistance from the KAUST Technology Transfer Office. Hikma is designed for students, postdocs and academics who wish to pursue a startup potential of their technology. Hikma, which is derived from the Arabic term for 'wisdom,' harkens to the original vision for KAUST as a modern day 'House of Wisdom.'

"We have been very successful at launching new initiatives in KAUST over the last year, from corporate innovation to new startups to new entrepreneurship classes for students," said Gordon McConnell, head of the KAUST Entrepreneurship Center. "The development of Hikma is the next logical step for us in terms of supporting the economic development part of the mission of KAUST. We hope to expand the process in the next iteration to bring in additional KAUST and other Saudi university teams."

Building Capacity in Saudi Arabia

Hikma is designed to provide a structured development process for startup activities that are focused on intellectual property; this in turn, can assist and support creation of home grown businesses from university technologies. Similar to the US National Science Foundation's (NSF) I-Corp program, Hikma is designed to help the Kingdom increase the number of knowledge-based startups and maximize their benefits.

During the Hikma program, teams make use of techniques and methodologies developed to validate the commercial potential of participating startup projects in a recognized, effective way including customer and business model development. The process also examines the organizational, personnel and facilities needs of the teams. The Entrepreneurship Center has also created a new process to help these early stage, startup teams manage the development of their patent protected technologies into products.

Expected Outcomes

There are a large number of potential outcomes for the cohort-based approach that the Hikma is implementing including:

  • The creation of in-depth business models and roadmaps for the advancement of intellectual property-based startups.
  • Supporting information for grant proposals or venture funding.
  • Development of entrepreneurial skillsets for academics, post-docs, students and staff.
  • Increased collaboration by universities in the region around startup activities.
  • Understanding of the importance of IP strategy and working closely with Technology Transfer Office

Although Hikma has some training elements in it, it is not a training program. It is a hands on, mentor-led startup creation process, which is based on a highly adapted version of international best practice.

"KAUST, like other universities in the Kingdom, has grown to a stage where we are starting to produce patents and other forms of IP from our intensive research activities. This new program is part of the continuing commitment of KAUST to impact the economic development of the Kingdom," said McConnell.