Saudi Arabia needs to boost R&D investments, says Lubna Olayan
by Rasha Abo AlSoud
Saudi Arabia would greatly benefit from investing in research and development (R&D), as well as education and innovation, said Lubna Olayan, CEO and deputy chairman of Olayan Financing Co.
Olayan said such steps could soon help create a new mark of quality for Saudi products, and a “Made in Arabia” movement.
“The US, Europe and Singapore spend the average of 2.2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) in research and development, while Saudi Arabia invests around 0.7 percent in R&D,” Olayan added, while speaking at a lecture at the American University in Cairo.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is currently pushing for better education under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030’s reforms, as well as for a better investment climate in the Kingdom. But, public-private partnerships (ppp) are needed to increase investments with a social impact, Olayan said.
She suggested integrating corporate zakat into charitable endeavors, especially in research and development, to lead to great results.
Commenting on the venture capital market in the region, Olayan said there are not enough VCs; however, the market is improving.
More programs are being launched in the Gulf to encourage youth to innovate especially in technology, and apps such as Careem, the ride-hailing service, is a good example, she added.
When asked about the future prospects for Saudi women in terms of education, Olayan said she is optimistic, as the Kingdom is witnessing great improvement in this regard.
“More women are graduating universities than men,” she said, adding that Prince Mohammed is targeting more women in the work place.
“He is trying to change the work environment in the Kingdom,” Olayan added.