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Sun 20 Mar 2011 12:00 AM

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Cutting edge

R&D and innovation are not only building the knowledge economy of the GCC, but helping to develop the construction industry as well

Cutting edge
Pushing the envelope: innovation fosters competitiveness

Innovation is a common language expressed in many tongues, according
to 3M MENA VP Irfan Malik. “Wherever we are in the world, we are connected by our
desire to create new and improved materials, processes and products. Creating innovative
products and services that respond to customer needs in the region has always been
a way of life, and that is a goal that we aim to take even further.”

The company has just launched its Innovation Centre, based in
Dubai. Announced
in December last year, this latest development from the global company has been
awaited eagerly by customers and R&D experts in the region, not only due to
the centre’s innovative content, but also for the benefits it is set to bring to
the entire region.

The opening follows 3M Gulf’s inauguration of its Saif Zone manufacturing
facility in Sharjah, a pre-built leased facility that will help create a faster
reaction to the market needs of Gulf customers, as well as significant lead time
improvement. It is significant to note that the Dubai centre is the 23rd 3M centre of its kind
in the world, said Malik. “The Dubai
centre will draw upon 3M’s global R&D strength and 45 technology platforms to
provide solutions for local customers to experience all around the region.” Customer
technical and innovation centres are unique to 3M around the world, and serve as
a mechanism for customer-inspired innovation. The first of its kind in the Middle
East region, the Dubai centre will now offer potential customers, business partners
and R&D experts the unique opportunity to test a host of 3M’s often groundbreaking
innovations.

Commenting on the increased demand for new and improved products
in the construction industry, Absol International LLC director Gaurav Sharma said:
“There has been a substantial increase in the demand for environment-friendly products
across the MENA region, with the GCC and Dubai,
in particular, leading the green revolution in construction. In line with the vision
of the leadership across the GCC, all efforts are being directed at developing turnkey
projects, infrastructure and facilities, commercial, leisure and residential developments
that are energy-efficient and LEED-compliant.”

Henkel Polybit Industries GM marketing Thorsten Schneider says
Henkel employs more than 3,000 R&D specialists “to meet the demands of our customers
and to meet the specifications of the latest standards. It is our duty to inform,
train and educate our customers from presentations down to detailed trainings to
keep them up to date with the latest technologies and newest standards. This enables
our clients to employ this information in upcoming or design-stage projects, or
in ongoing projects.

“To fulfill the requirements of some of the products, new technologies
had to be developed as they had, and have to, meet the special requirements for
this booming region, which here is especially related to the climate, speed and
work environment. However, most of the technologies you find in this market are
not new. They are based on experience gained in Europe, the US and Asia Pacific,
and have been adapted to local parameters.

“Having said that, it is clear this market is dependent on constant
innovation and customer collaboration to increase the quality, especially in interior
fittings. It is also one of our permanent tasks to raise awareness of protecting
the health of the tenant – for example, materials should be used which do not allow
the growth of fungus or spores, which can cause allergies and other diseases,” says
Schneider. Mapei business development director Laith Haboubi says innovation and
customer collaboration tend to be different sides of the same coin. “It is a bit
of both. Our strategy has been to not only introduce products complying with the
latest standards and application methods, but also to show the contractor or installer
the end value, whether through a ‘right first-time’ approach, or issues such as
durability or time/resource saving.”

Hot on the heels of 3M’s Innovation Centre follows the announcement
by Dow Chemical Company that it has finalised a comprehensive cooperation agreement
with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia to
finalise a comprehensive cooperation agreement to establish an R&D centre on
the campus.

Dow previously unveiled its vision for an R&D partnership
with KAUST at the Dow Innovation Summit in March of 2010. Under the terms of the
agreement, Dow and KAUST will collaborate on a range of academic research programmes
tailored to KAUST’s areas of excellence in research and education.

“The Dow-KAUST agreement represents a win-win partnership. Dow
will be able to leverage KAUST’s talented students and outstanding faculty for expertise
in cutting-edge technologies. KAUST will benefit from Dow’s long-standing R&D
capabilities and its market and commercialization expertise as of one of the world’s
leading science and technology companies,” said KAUST President Professor Choon
Fong Shih.

Another example of recent collaboration to promote innovation
and business excellence is the signing of a long-term strategic partnership between
Siemens and Masdar, which was first announced in October 2010. “The partnership
has reached a significant milestone of what will be a long-term strategic collaboration,”
said Wolfgang Dehen, CEO of the Siemens Energy Sector and member of the Siemens
board.

“Not only have we firmly established the framework of our technology
cooperation, but also the relocation of our regional headquarters to Masdar City.
This marks the first time that Siemens has moved headquarters of a global division,
established in Germany,
into a region. This is a unique commitment to Abu Dhabi
and the Middle East and a convincing demonstration
of our vision to act as a global company with strong links to our customers.”

Siemens’ proposition to research and develop new ‘clean’ technologies
with the Masdar Institute of Science and technology represents the largest global
commitment of its kind with a science and technology institution that Siemens has
ever embarked upon. The agreement entails a long-term R&D program for smart
grids, smart buildings and carbon capture and storage in the form of scholarships
and R&D funding, as well as educational programmes for the advancement of the
knowledge economy in the UAE.

“With this long-term and strategic partnership with a leading
global company, Masdar will establish the foundations for developing and testing
new technologies involving energy-efficiency and carbon abatement that have both
regional and global benefits,” said Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. More and more
people are living in cities, which at present account for 75% of the energy consumed
worldwide, and are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. “We are sure
that this groundbreaking clean-energy project in Abu Dhabi will also promote sustainable cities
globally,” said Dehen.

Siemens Energy also made the headlines recently with the announcement
of the founding of a specialist facility to be based in the King Fahd University
of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, one of the leading research and teaching
institutions in the Middle East. The centre will
provide collaborative R&D support for energy-related topics and knowledge-sharing,
as well as training for local students and for the Kingdom at large.

The facility will be established in the Dhahran Techno Valley
(DTV), located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, and will offer investment
into certain projects related to R&D, including energy-efficient concepts for
oil and gas, fuel flexibility concepts for gaseous and liquid fuels, gas turbine
technology, renewable energy, advanced water treatment and green technologies. Research
will be conducted by Siemens in collaboration with customers such as SABIC and Saudi
Aramco, as well as various educational/research such as KFUPM and, of course, KAUST.

“The initiative with KFUPM is further step in building Siemens’
overall commitment in Saudi Arabia,”
said Dehen. “We place great importance in growing the skills of its people through
training, support and vocational opportunities, and will strive to add extra value
to the world-class programmes already being implemented by the university. Siemens
is a global technology leader with strong local roots in the region, and has a great
interest in identifying and utilising local talents for all fields of business and
R&D we operate in.”

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