In the race to become a knowledge economy, the UAE's larger emirates have dominated the spotlight when it comes to research activities.
In 2009 His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, established the Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. Since its inception, the organisation has geared up research activities in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) to specifically address issues in the emirate and the country as a whole.
Gulf News spoke with Dr Natasha Ridge, executive director of the foundation, who explained the purpose of the organisation and its recent achievements.
"His Highness Shaikh Saud wanted to establish the foundation to generate more research that he could use to base policies on for the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, starting with education initially and then expanding to other social sectors like health and the urban environment," she said.
"He's really very passionate about education and wanted high-quality research to build capacity here."
One of the key focus areas for RAK is the focus on English language learning. Together with the Ministry of Education Zone in Ras Al Khaimah, the foundation is helping to raise standards in English language learning.
To improve research, the organisation decided to bring doctoral students from abroad who are in their field research phase. Ridge said many doctoral students from America, Canada, Europe and Australia don't have the funding to go abroad, which is why the Al Qasimi Foundation offers scholarships to help them conduct research.
The only condition is that RAK is one of the research sites or it includes an organisation or institution from the emirate.
Some may wonder why the organisation is not building local capacity in terms of research. Ridge explains that they chose people from abroad because they wanted to build a research base that's high in quality. It is a well-known fact that the quality of research in the Middle East is not on a par with international standards.
"It's good to send people from here overseas, but we want to bring people from overseas here to build that base of knowledge and researchers here have something really solid to build their own research further."
"We need to bring the best and then it raises the bar when researchers show their work internationally and go to conferences," said Ridge.
In addition to research activities, the foundation sponsors the Gulf Comparative Education Society, which was established to enable academic, professional and educational collaboration in the Gulf region.
Ras Al Khaimah Teachers' Network — a social and professional networking site for educators — was also set up by the foundation. The forum allows teachers from Ras Al Khaimah, across the UAE and around the world to come together to share resources, ideas and best practices.
Another initiative is the Third Annual Education Policy Forum Series organised by the foundation and Middlesex University to bring together key players in the education sector to discuss and debate a number of topics.