The 5th Congress on Scientific Research Outlook & Technology Development in the Arab World (SRO5), organized by the Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF), was held in Fez, Morocco on October 25-31, 2008. Part of this event that brought together thousands of delegates was a one-day conference on Incubation and Technology Parks for Economic Growth, which offered interesting presentations from practitioners in incubation and technology park management, as well as scientists discussing innovation, incubation, and entrepreneurship from a technological perspective. MENAinc members and other representatives of technology parks and business incubators reported on their experiences and recent achievements in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.
The 7th MENAinc workshop, was held following the congress, on October 29 -31, 2008 in Ifrane, Morocco. Hosted by Al-Akhawayn University, a grantee and member of infoDev's Global Network of Business Incubators, and under the patronage of Dr. Rachid Benabdellah, President of Al-Akhawayn University, the workshop brought together more than 30 participants from 8 countries of the MENAinc network. The overall aims of the workshop included:
- Intensifying the exchange of information and knowledge regarding the situation, aims, achievements, and perspectives for innovation and entrepreneurship promotion as well as business incubation within MENAinc and other networks.
- Raising awareness about innovation and entrepreneurship for economic development and competitiveness.
- Expanding the MENAinc network by attracting and integrating new members and supporting organizations.
- Providing training to incubator managers.
MAIN Outcomes of the Congress
In his opening speech, Dr. Rachid stated that in supporting entrepreneurship and business development, Al-Akhawayn University focuses not only on academic quality but also on applied sciences and the practical impact of research for the development of economy and society at large. He highlighted the role and responsibility that a university has in its immediate environment and provided practical examples of how Al-Akhawayn University is meeting this challenge.
The first session of the workshop: Business Incubation in MENA – State of the Art and Perspectives, discussed the outcomes and experiences from the ASTF conference in Fez through open discussion between the participants and concluded by emphasizing the importance of such an event in bringing together regional expertise and perspectices. Updates and information about business incubation developments in the region were seen an important source for learning from each other and developing ideas for new initiatives. Mr. Omer Oz, President of MENAinc, described the current components of the supported MENAinc Project 2008-2009 supported by infoDev: Building National Networks, Commercialization of MENAinc Technological and Cross Network Exchange Program and invited all participants and other interested parties to join these activities. He also drew attention on the need for a specific regulatory framework for promoting the start-up and development of technology based businesses.
Dr. Abdulaziz Alhargan, Deputy Executive Director for BADIR-ICT, presented the current developments in business incubation in Riyadh, where an incubator with a training center was recently launched. This incubator focuses on supporting ICT as an initiative taken by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). KACST is working on establishing technology incubators and funding 5 business incubators at Universities in Saudi Arabia. These incubators will have explicit technological focuses: ICT, biotechnology, biomanufacturing, energy, and nano-technology. Dr. Abdulaziz Alhargan invited MENAinc to hold its next meeting at an international conference on business incubation that is scheduled to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 16-17, 2009.
The second session of the MENAinc Workshop: Business Incubation in Morocco Experiences and Perspectives provided an overview of the current situation of business incubation, technology parks, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship support in Morocco. Mr. Khalil Azzioui and Lotfi Sadiki presented the opportunities and challenges for further development of business incubation and technology parks, as well as financing start-ups and growing enterprises in Morocco. Mr. Ilyas Azzioui then presented on The Role of Universities and Research in Entrepreneurship Support, discussing the role of universities within socio-economic development. Six universities in Morocco currently host active business incubators. He also discussed the role of universities in promoting and implementing an entrepreneurial culture and in evaluating ideas for new businesses.
- The third session: MENAinc Projects 2008 aimed to foster commitment and deepen cooperation around the following working groups, as part of the MENAinc Project 2008:
- Building National Networks & Associations | Team Leader: Ilyas Azzioui, Rima Shaban
- Technology Entrepreneurship Program | Team Leader: Laith Kassis, Ilyas Azzioui
- Commercialization of MENAinc Technology Innovation | Team Leader: Laith Kassis, Ilyas Azzioui
- Cross Network Exchange Program (Pilot phase) | Team Leader: Omer Oz, Sophia Muradyan
During the workshop, the 5th MENAinc Board Meeting was held to decide on a number of issues important for further development of the network. The result of the election for the board of directors was announced. The newly elected MENAinc Board of Directors consists of the following five members: President Omer Oz (Bahrain Business Incubator Center); Vice-Presidents Laith Kassis (Palestine ICT Incubator), and Rima Shaban (Syrian Computer Society); and General Members Ilyas Azzioui (Morocco Al-Akhawayn University) and Nejiba Khalfallah (Elgazala Park of Communications Tecnologies, Tunisia).
On the second day, three parallel working group sessions were held on the topics introduced during the previous day. These sessions generated a work outline for project activities that will be initiated under the infoDev MENAinc Project 2009. These projects are planned around a one-year timeline and important milestones will be reached at the international conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (March 16-17, 2009) and the infoDev Global Business Incubation Forum in Brasilia, Brazil (May 11-15, 2009). These events will provide excellent opportunities for presenting the intermediate results of the workgroup activities and for discussing the outcomes with the regional and global business incubation community. Members of the MENAinc network as well as other incubators and technoparks in the region are invited to join the workgroups. For further information about joining these working groups, please contact Mr. Omer Oz, President of the MENAinc Network by e-mail at email@example.com, or one of the Team Leaders above.