Realizing its potential role as a leading university in education and research, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) embarked in 2006 on developing an integrated ecosystem that supports innovation and technology entrepreneurship at its campus. With an aim to create thriving environment for collaborative R&D in petroleum energy applications at the core of this ecosystem, KFUPM established the Dhahran Techno-Valley (DTV) science park. Now, the DTV science park encompasses R&D centers of national and multinational corporations committed to R&D and innovation and investing in applications that respond to local and global requirements driving the energy sector. The overall objectives of the ecosystem are directed towards providing new solutions and improving existing technologies which will result in a fostered, collaborative and industrially oriented environment supporting technology commercialization and expanding the intellectual capital activities. This is expected to have impact on diversifying the KSA’s energy sources mix, dropping the energy consumption levels, leveraging innovation capital and expanding knowledge-based expertise. KFUPM is also engaged in the process of creating the KSA’s entrepreneurial skills. This is why allowing KFUPM innovation potential and the collaborative R&D outcomes of DTV to be transformed into SMEs, pursuing product design, engineering and development became a major target for KFUPM.
To set the stage for the ecosystem innovation and entrepreneurship activities to be effective, KFUPM developed a system and set of processes for advancing the outcomes of the university fundamental and basic research activities and the collaborative R&D activities with DTV Science Park tenants, in readiness for translation into technology–based products, businesses and services. KFUPM system for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology enterprising is comprised of: a university sector for Technology Transfer, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (TTIE) and a subsidiary wholly owned by KFUPM known as Dhahran Techno-Valley Company (DTVC). The TTIE includes: Innovation Center, Entrepreneurship Institute, Technology Advancement and Prototyping Center and an Industry-Liaison Office. The DTVC is the business operator of DTV and broadly-chartered to invest in technology-related enterprises. This includes the investment in products and technology development, commercialization and technology startups. DTVC provides the expertise to lead and manage early stage concepts through to commercial products and services.
The Innovation Center building of KFUPM in DTV is another addition to the university ecosystem. In addition to office, lab (dry, wet and IT) and conferring areas, the building includes spaces for business incubation, prototyping and product development. This makes the building to represent an open innovation zone bringing together the researchers (from KFUPM & DTV science park researchers, the technology innovators, the entrepreneurs, the venture investors, the product designers and developers.
The various units under the umbrella of TTIE are:
Innovation Center – Manages all KFUPM intellectual assets including the university invention disclosure filing, and technology licensing processes. It supports new concepts from the idea generation stage to the prototyping and business development steps through proof-of-concept projects.
Entrepreneurship Institute – works towards developing entrepreneurial culture and mindset among students and faculty and establish an entrepreneurial “BRAND” for KFUPM.
Technology Advancement & Prototyping Center (TAPC) – plays an essential role in advancing technologies readiness level (TRL) to potential entrepreneurial opportunities that will enhance the convergence of KFUPM’s technology entrepreneurship ecosystem to a comprehensive R&D-based industrial ecosystem.
Liaison Office – devoted to establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between TTIE entities. KFUPM, as an educational institution, supports interactions with industry to improve course contents based on inputs from industry, as well as providing training for students and faculty to be more capable of solving real-world problems.
Dr. Samir Al-Baiyat, TTIE Supervisor