Yahya Anouti Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries can achieve an economic growth rate of 2.2 per cent by increasing their research and development (R&D) spending by 1 per cent, according to a Strategy& Middle East report.

The study reveals that R&D spending (including capital expenditures) is much lower in GCC states when compared to their global peers.

For example, R&D spending in the UAE amounts to 0.9 per cent of GDP, and just 0.1 per cent of GDP in Bahrain. By contrast, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries spend, on average, 2.5 per cent of their GDP on R&D.

To be in line with OECD average, the report said that Saudi Arabia would have to increase its R&D spending by an additional 1.7 per cent of its GDP, while the figure for the UAE stands at 1.6 per cent, 2 per cent for Qatar, 2.2 per cent for Kuwait, 2.3 per cent for Oman and 2.4 per cent for Bahrain.

“At present, private-sector-led and academic research is limited. Local universities have few channels for collaboration with international universities, the private sector, or the government, while the region’s legal system does not effectively protect researchers’ intellectual property and provide them with commercialisation support,” said Yahya Anouti, principal with Strategy& Middle East.

This means that GCC countries pay a high price to import knowledge, an unsustainable solution that does not always answer their specific needs, he said.

The report said that Gulf countries are investing heavily in state-of-the-art labs, university buildings and research facilities.

“Their total capital expenditure from 2010 to 2030 will reach $38.4 billion (Dh141.04 billion). However, so far, they have not put similar efforts into high quality research and development, [according to] the report,” Anouti said.

“Consequently, GCC countries require [the] importing [of] knowledge, which is often difficult to adapt to the specific context of Gulf States, or may not even be available.”

Despite GCC governments allocating large shares of their budgets to state-of-the-art facilities, the report finds that there are still major obstacles behind the lack of research coming out of the GCC. These include structural limitations within academia, scarce partnerships with international researchers and the private sector, a limited contribution to the public-sector agenda, as well as insufficient intellectual property (IP) regulations.

Shihab Al Borai, partner with Strategy& Middle East, said that GCC countries have made admirable investments in research facilities, but must now turn their focus to fostering the research ecosystem.

“By encouraging the output and quality of academic and corporate research, they can enable innovation and the development of new products and solutions, enhance workforce skills, and inform public policy. As a result, these advances will contribute to adaptability and increased productivity,” he said.