Universities as Catalysts for Innovation: What makes them successful?

At the 5th Annual Saudi International Technology Incubation Conference, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) President Jean-Lou Chameau shared that a key element of success for universities as catalysts for innovation is a "relentless commitment to excellence in education and research, where highly talented people are encouraged and enabled to address important questions with passion."

The conference, organized by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Badir, and the Technopolicy Network, was held from November 5-6 in Riyadh, and also incorporated the network's 10th International Annual Conference. The 2013 theme was "Science and Technology as a Driver for Change: How regional development, entrepreneurship, and incubation interact."

Specific to the role that research universities play as a driver for innovation, economic development, and prosperity of a region or country, Dr. Chameau explained that it is critical for universities to support and nurture both curiosity-driven and problem- or goal-driven research; to foster an agile and vibrant climate for innovation; and to leverage the globalization of knowledge by promoting collaborations and partnerships.

"Thanks to the vision of King Abdullah, KAUST was created to be a model for advanced education and scientific research and to promote economic development. A culture of excellence, collaborations, and international partnerships is in its DNA. To address important problems and leverage the increasing globalization of knowledge, it made it a strategy and policy from the very beginning to encourage and support partnerships," said Dr. Chameau.

To further highlight the role of entrepreneurship and incubation in delivering sustainable economic development, Dr. Chameau chaired in a panel discussion on the importance of science- and technology-based entrepreneurship to transitional economies like the GCC. "Innovation ecosystems must be 'tuned' to create the conditions to develop, nurture, and leverage inventive and imaginative people, allowing for creativity and innovation to flow from laboratories to the marketplace," he stated. He also pointed out that enabling policies and a vibrant climate for innovation must exist not only within universities but also in the larger regional and national ecosystems.

Dr. Chameau also noted that the heart of the most productive innovation ecosystems is comprised of truly creative and inventive minds. "If we educate students and engage them in an environment that stresses excellence, curiosity, invention, integrity, and a passion for doing things that matter, we serve society well," he said.

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