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Business Analysis


A Kuwaiti innovation shows the world low-cost ways are possible

Young Kuwaitis provide a PCR test breakthrough – and they are offering it for free

Gulf states need to bring up their R&D spending to 2.5% of their GDP to build a spirit of innovation.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

We had recently brought up a mention of four young Emirati inventors showcasing their credentials during the Al Ittihad Forum in Abu Dhabi. The spirit of inventiveness continues, this time in Kuwait, where three inventors and their team of 34 doctors managed to develop a swab test for detecting COVID-19. They also revealed its production cost.

They will take this innovation to various countries, especially the poor ones, which suffered the most due to the lack of financial capacity to cover the cost of testing and vaccines. The Kuwaiti breakthrough is distinguished from others for the sheer economic and humanitarian aspects.

Showing the world

Three young surgeons - headed by Dr. Salman Al Sabah, Dr. Suleiman Al Mazyedi and Dr. Sarah Al Youha, who have PhDs in medicine from Britain and Canada, as well as a master’s degree from the US Harvard University were able to a research laboratory at the new Jaber Al Sabah Hospital, which was opened in conjunction with the outbreak of the pandemic.

The high cost of imported tests prompted the three and their team to conduct research aimed at providing a lower PCR test cost. They used 3D printing facilities and came up with cost per test of only 15 cents compared to $2.25 for imported options. The team focused on producing a cheap and fast test, leading to impressive results after trials were conducted on 60 volunteers.

The quality of the test is on par with Western and Chinese counterparts. The Kuwait team has so far produced more than 60,000 swabs.


The issue is not only about a scientific innovation, but also about economic aspects related to the cost of producing. This is simply because the cost of current production by large companies is exaggerated, and many such products are not available to many countries in the world.

Pfizer alone expects its sales this year to rise to $45 billion, including $19 billion generated from coronavirus vaccine sales, and with further profits of $9.3 billion forecast for the next two years, according to Morgan Stanley.

Built on innovation

For knowledge-based economies, the considerations of wealth and have become more dependent on innovation rather than traditional wealth like natural resources. Tech companies are at the top of the list of the highest capitalised companies in the world, while Old Economy heavyweights were removed.

The young Kuwaiti inventors have dealt with it in a transparent and humane manner after deciding to put the details of their invention on the internet to make it available to all interested people for free. Their unprecedented manner has been very well received, especially from some in relatively less well-off countries that thanked them.

There is growing enthusiasm by GCC youth for inventions and harnessing them for economic growth. This suggests allocating more resources to finance the production of inventions and support the transformation of knowledge economies. Last year, the GCC countries presented 521 inventions, compared to 456 inventions in the rest of the Arab world.


The Kuwaiti invention would not have been possible without the $350,000 from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science. This requires increasing allocations for research and innovations to no less than 2.5 per cent of GDP to be equal to that of the developed countries.

Mohammed Al Asoomi
The writer is a specialist in energy and Gulf economic affairs.