Saudi deep tech program leverages startup expertise to address societal challenges, from food security to climate change to health
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has recently concluded Destination Deep Tech, a Saudi-first program that spins in leading-edge global startups to the Kingdom to develop deep tech innovations. The international startups — CeEntek, Hopu, Insignes-Labs, Pasqal, and Proteinea — were chosen to participate in the three-month program due to their highly advanced technologies, and they have already started to expand in the MENA region's thriving market.
KAUST's ability to invest and support diverse startups is driven by a determination to attract best-in-class talent worldwide to energize the rich, deep tech startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. In particular, startups with the resolve to address pressing issues facing modern society such as food scarcity, climate change and health enable the Kingdom's national impact initiatives to align with Vision 2030.
Destination Deep Tech, launched this year in partnership with The Next Web (TNW), provides hand-picked deep tech startups with the tools they need to scale. This includes access to KAUST's world-class R&D facilities, the opportunity to collaborate with academic and industry connections, and office space at the KAUST Research and Technology Park.
“KAUST is the deep tech heart of the Saudi Economy, and we are delighted to welcome these talented international startups to KAUST and the Kingdom as part of Destination Deep Tech. This new program demonstrates KAUST's commitment to growing a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia that addresses challenges and solves problems for the world," said Dr. Kevin Cullen, Vice President of KAUST Innovation.
The final five startups chosen come from Spain, Poland, France, Egypt and Singapore. These startups achieved significant growth during the program and have established collaborative partnerships that are set to result in immediate impact in the Kingdom.
Pasqal, from France, is a leading European quantum computing startup that provides a full-stack solution, from hardware to applications. Their goal is to bring the quantum advantage faster to end-users. Pasqal has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Aramco and is currently looking to establish a commercial presence in the region. They have also started collaborating with KAUST Extreme Computing Research Center, led by professor David Keyes.
Insignes-Labs, from Poland, develops antimicrobial additives to protect a wide range of materials from microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, fungi and molds. The company is currently running a pilot program with KAUST startup Red Sea Farms while applying for a KAUST Technology Transfer Impact Acceleration Fund to further collaborate with the University and bring the product to market.
Proteinia, from Egypt, is a platform technology that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning models and biological automation for protein design and production. By fast-tracking the commercialization of key optimized protein products, Proteinia aims to serve the areas of human health, aquaculture industries, and sustainable food technologies. Proteinea has set up a lab and office space at KAUST Research & Technology Park to base their R&D activity at KAUST for access to world-class facilities and resident academic collaborators.
CeEntek, from Singapore, delivers ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) for increased sustainability and efficiency of construction projects. Their innovative manufacturing process allows for UHPC 2.0™ concrete solutions in a wide range of markets and applications.
Hopu, from Spain, provides AI-based IoT devices and sensors for Industry 4.0 and Smart Cities, covering air quality monitoring, noise, energy metering and more. The company is deploying its air quality sensors in the KAUST network through a collaboration with KAUST Smart and KAUST academics.
Program partner The Next Web (TNW) is an international organization that informs, inspires and connects the global tech ecosystem through media, events and innovation services. TNW Programs, the team behind Destination Deep Tech, helps corporations and governments to innovate together within the startup ecosystem and ensure that top talent is recruited for the program.
TNW Program Director Arno Nijhof stated, “TNW's mission is to build bridges between ecosystems and create business connections that matter. With this program, we leveraged our global network and KAUST USPs to attract scale-up companies worldwide and support them on campus. We are proud of the achievements made with KAUST, our first cohort. Together we managed 80% of the companies to continue their stay on campus.”
Destination Deep Tech is the latest evolution of KAUST to accelerate key initiatives and research projects relating to the overall socio-economic goals of Saudi Arabia. By spinning in these five forward-looking startups, KAUST is committed to investing in novel startups that have the potential to provide present and future solutions to critical issues of sustainability and health for impact in Saudi Arabia and around the world.