Case study: KACST technology innovation center in radio frequency and photonics.

Author:Sebak, Abdelrazik
Position::King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology - Case study

This introductory section provides the necessary background for presenting the Technology Innovation Centers (TICs) supported by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The section starts by introducing the main features of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and its drive toward building a knowledge-based society. KACST as the main national Saudi center for knowledge development is then introduced in terms of both its vision and its mission. The strategic bases of the Saudi National Science and Technology Policy (SNSTP), developed with KASCT contribution, are then described. Their associated practical implementation programs are given, including the program concerned with TICs. The presented work on TICs is then highlighted in preparation for the subsequent sections of the paper.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia enjoys a wide area that extends over '2 million [km.sup.2].' It has a population of over '27 million,' with a population growth of around '2.3%.' The country has the largest oil reserves in the world. Figure 1 gives the map of the country with some basic information (Arafah, Al-Harbi, & Bakry, 2007).

Since 1970, the country has been following a continuous set of 5-year national development plans, reaching currently to the 9th, while also preparing for the 10th (Arafah et ah, 2007). The ambition of the country toward achieving sustainable development, with competitive edge, has directed its plans to use its resources for building a knowledge-driven society. For this purpose, KACST was established in 1985, as the main national knowledge development center that produces, coordinates and supports efforts in this direction (Bakry, 2009).

King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology

King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology states its vision as: 'to be a world-class science and technology organization that fosters innovation and promotes knowledge-based society in the KSA (Bakry & Bakry, 2005).' In its mission, it emphasizes sustainable development, and provides the following dimensions for its achievement:

* 'Formulating national policies and plans for science, technology, and innovation;

* Coordinating science, technology, and innovation activities nationally;

* Conducting applied research and technology development;

* Providing support to scientific research and technology development in the kingdom;

* Investing in technology development and commercialization;

* Establishing and fostering local, regional, and international cooperation and partnerships for technology transfer, localization, and development;

* Promoting, fostering, and investing in intellectual property; and

* Providing consultation and innovative solutions (Bakry & Bakry, 2005).'


King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology contributed to the initiation of the SNSTP in 2002, and to the subsequent development of national science and technology plans that are based on the policy (Bakry, 2004).

Saudi national science and technology policy

The Saudi national science and technology policy has the following 10 main strategic development bases (Bakry, 2004):

(1) A comprehensive vision should be adopted in the development of science, technology and innovation.

(2) The role of education and training should be activated, and their efficiency should be supported.

(3) Scientific research and technology development capabilities should be promoted.

(4) Scientific research trends should emphasize the priorities of national securities and the requirements of sustainable development.

(5) The financial sources supporting science, technology and innovation should be promoted and diversified.

(6) Technology transfer and the development of adequate technologies should be enhanced toward promoting productivity and competitiveness.

(7) National human capabilities should be fostered and encouraged toward enhanced creativity and innovation.

(8) The regulations that govern the performance of science, technology and innovation, and that improve the efficiency of organizations in the scientific and technical institutions should be developed.

(9) The different aspects of the scientific and technological cooperation on the Gulf, Arab, Islamic, and International levels, from which the KSA can benefit, should be promoted.

(10) The scientific and technological information should made available and accessible.

Based on the above strategic development bases, national science and technology plans have been developed. These plans identified strategic technologies that should be emphasized (Esteve & Joseph, 2008), and provided practical development programs. The programs included the development of technology incubators and parks; and the establishment of TICs, which are the concern of this paper (KACST, 2012).

This paper

This paper is concerned with KACST-TICs program. It provides a structured generic view of the TICs; and it describes the TIC on Radio Frequency (RF) and Phonetics for the e-Society established, by KACST, at King Saud University (KSU), the main higher education institution in KSA (KSU, 2012). This provides a practical example on the development of science, technology and innovation in the country, which is an essential issue in building the e-society.


King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology TICs are presented in this section according to the structured Strategy, Technology, Organization, People, and Environment (STOPE) view. A background on the view is first introduced; and this followed by applying the view to KACST TICs.

The STOPE view

The STOPE view has been developed by Bakry in response to the need to organizing the elements of the scope of technology driven development projects, strategic units or entities (MOEP, 2012). It enables the description of the state of such projects, or entities, at a certain point in time; and it also supports monitoring and improving their progress, in an organized manner. The main domains considered by the view to be comprehensive enough to accommodate all possible elements in a structured view are: 'Strategy, Technology, Organization, People and Environment'; and from these domains comes the name: STOPE view. Each of these domains is briefly identified in the following:

* The 'strategy' domain reflects the development drive of the project or entity concerned.

* The 'technology' domain includes all elements of the technology involved.

* The 'organization' domain provides a view of both: The internal organizational structure of the project, or entity, on the one hand; and the external organizations or units associated with it on the other.

* The 'people' domain considers all human elements and their attributes.

* The 'environment' domain is concerned with the rules and practices governing the various activities needed for performing the activities of the project or entity.

The STOPE view has been previously used for problems associated with the e-society including the development of: E-government (SNSTP, 2012); grid computing (Strategic Technologies, 2012a); enterprise resource planning (Strategic Technologies, 2012b); and other related issues. The use of STOPE view has not been limited to local researchers, but it has been extended worldwide; an example of this is given in (Technology Incubators and Innovation Centers, 2012).


Reference (MOEP 2012) emphasizes the need to continuously activate and integrate useful knowledge in order to achieve development. This is expressed in the knowledge circle of Figure 2. If useful knowledge is continuously created through research, preserved and disseminated through education and training, and actively utilized through industry, wealth can be generated and jobs can be created leading to sustainable development. KACST TICs program is essentially concerned with such development in the KSA through supporting the right useful knowledge, in the right institutions, with the right collaborations, using best practices standards (Technology Innovation Centers, 2009).

King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology TICs program has the following four broad objectives (Technology Innovation Centers, 2009):

(1) Addressing the economic and social goals of the KSA;

(2) Promoting university--industry research coh laboration and technology transfer in the KSA;

(3) Strengthening university research and science and engineering education in the KSA; and

(4) Implementing best practices and appropriate features of the structure, incentives, and requirements of successful programs in countries similar to the KSA.


For the achievement of these objectives, the KACST TICs program works toward creating a series of university-based and industry-collaborative research centers in various parts of the KSA. The coming Part 3 of the paper gives a full view of the profile of one of these centers.


The technologies targeted by TICs are associated with those considered by the Saudi national science and technology plans as 'strategic technologies' for the KSA (Vision and Mission, 2012). These technologies are listed in the following:

(1) Aerospace and aeronautics;

(2) Advanced materials;

(3) Biotechnology;

(4) Electronics, communication & photonics: This is the...

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