Opportunities galore for Omani researchers at ‘Horizon 2020’

By: Lakshmi Kothaneth

MUSCAT: Opportunities for researchers in Oman were in focus as the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) hosted Horizon 2020 Info with INCONET — GCC project, which currently has a focus on researches on Smart Cities and Diabetes.

‘Horizon 2020’ is the biggest European Research and Innovation funding programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020). The national contact in Oman is the Research Council. The research projects are with an emphasis on science and innovation.

“We have not been able to as researchers, effectively participate in the projects operated at the EU level. For example Horizon 2020 is an EU programme which requires development of minimum consortium of three European countries. There are Omanis who have participated before at the individual level or through an indirect programme. We are hoping through INCOGNET GCC One and Two, to open the platform for collaboration. We hope Omani institutions can become part of these consortiums,” said the Secretary-General of The Research Council, Dr Hilal bin Ali al Hinai.

INCONET- GCC2 is an international cooperation network between EU and the Arab gulf countries, consisting of 20 key players and actors from EU and GCC in research and innovation.

The Research Council is a funding agency just like what is happening in the European Union and it would be a step forward to collaborate said the TRC Secretary General. “We will be interested in collaboration and in joint funding projects that give priority to both sides. We will be discussing further with the participants of INCOGNET — GCC so that joint projects can be established and that way Omani researchers can participate at the European level,” added Dr al Hinai.

Lack of researchers continue to be the biggest challenge said Dr Al Hinai. “Funding is not a constraint anymore as it is available from the Research Council and the government as well as other initiatives. So funding is not an objective for us. Our objective is to be in the international networks operating and working with top institutes in the field of research and innovation,” explained Dr Al Hinai.

The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates is one of the partner institutions of the INCONET-GCC project which was initiated by the European Commission in 2009. “PEIE is trying to build awareness and adapt technology transfer especially in Information Technology and innovation in relation to our local industries.

The main challenges are ideas. We are trying to address people’s minds. We want Omani People to come up with their own ideas and become more productive. We are supporting individual projects that meet consumer demands,” said Hilal bin Hamad al Hasani, CEO of PEIE.

In his speech at the info day held at Crowne Plaza, Al Hasani said, “I understand that smart cities and diabetes are two thematic priorities in the current INCONET-GCC programme. The ill effects of rapid urbanisation and life style diseases are known to all of us. We need to be a lot smarter in managing our resources, preserving our environment and living a healthy life. This requires lot of research and innovation in achieving success in a holistic manner.
The info-day was aimed at providing the participants with a general presentation on Horizon 2020 including the structure and the funding rules, and a more in depth information on the fellowships for the international mobility of researchers (Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions).

“We need to connect our technological advancements with real societal needs. For instance, a balanced urban infrastructure, including an integrated transportation network, is almost a necessity to provide safe and clean environment to the city dwellers. But these are also important to prevent lifestyle diseases and enhance human productivity in very many ways. My point simply is that all these issues in different domains are interconnected in many ways. We need to see this larger picture,” Al Hasani.

Since 2009, PEIE has been associating with this EU-GCC cooperation programme.

According to Angelo D’Agostino, H2020 National Contact Point of Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions and SwafS, “The MSCA are open to researchers and innovation staff at all stages of their career, as well as to universities, research institutions, research infrastructures, businesses, and other socio-economic actors from all countries, including third countries. Mobility is a key requirement in the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions. Researchers receive funding on the condition that they move from one country to another to broaden or deepen their competences.”

George Baroutas, technology transfer consultant at PRAXI Network, said the objectives of this network is to strengthen policy dialogue, organise cluster activities in selected research projects, enhance capacity building in GCC, draw a future roadmap for research and innovation activities, raise awareness and disseminate information, and boost collaboration between some gulf countries and EU.


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