Qatar Development Bank (QDB) will launch business incubators specialising in sports and fintech (financial technology) by the fourth quarter of the year as part of the ‘National Incubation Strategy’, an official has said.
According to QDB, the strategy is a “first-of-its-kind” in Qatar and in Arab countries, and is aimed at nurturing business startup companies that help develop the business sector and young, established companies that have significant potential to grow.
QDB on Monday gathered stakeholders in the fields of incubation, entrepreneurship, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), and innovation, as well as those in strategy and policy agenda for a workshop to explore the challenges and opportunities before launching the ‘National Incubation Strategy’ in Q4 2018, according to QDB executive director of Advisory Services and Incubation Ibrahim al-Mannai.
As part of this strategy, al-Mannai said QDB will launch a sports incubator, “in partnership with Aspire,” and a fintech incubator, “in partnership with IBM.” He said QDB will oversee the initiative, providing 90% of the funding.
During Monday’s workshop, Abdo al-Habr of global consulting firm ATKearny, delivered a presentation, which revealed that “Qatar lacks sector-specific incubators” and that “the majority of startups in Qatar operate in the ICT sector and most are limited to easy tech.”
Also, al-Habr said leading sector-specific incubators are increasingly focusing on sector-technology clusters. Benchmark countries are focusing on the following: South Korea (digital therapeutics, digital media), Singapore (IoT, smart cities), Norway (oncology, bio technology), the US (food technology, energy, clean technology), Finland (blockchain, fintech), Canada (clean technology), and the UK (digital media).
Al-Habr also noted that Qatar’s entrepreneurship culture “is still limited due to an abundance of jobs impacting its development”. 
He said majority or 81% of working age Qataris are employed in government entities or government-owned companies.
“High-paying jobs and retirement pensions reduces the incentive for Qataris to become entrepreneurs, particularly full-time. As such, most Qatari entrepreneurs are full-time employees and part-time entrepreneurs, impacting the speed of startups’ growth and hindering the development of an incubation landscape,” al-Habr’s presentation stated.
But al-Mannai pointed out that incubation plays a key role in encouraging entrepreneurship “because it creates an ecosystem that can nurture, accelerate, and implement an idea.”
“Without incubation, we believe that development and implementation of an idea will take not less than four years. But with an acceleration programme, it can be running within six months, so our aim is to accelerate,” al-Mannai said.
By the fourth quarter of 2018, al-Mannai also said plans are underway for QDB’s launch of the ‘Entrepreneurship Leave Programme’, an initiative that will offer a two-year paid leave for government employees who want to establish their own startups.
“For this initiative, we are already in an advanced level, and we are just waiting for an announcement from HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani. This initiative is, so to speak, on his desk.
“We’ve launched this initiative in 2016 and we’ve been developing it; we’ve been working with the different stakeholders and ministries. Three weeks ago, we met with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, and we’ve finalised how this would be implemented,” al-Mannai told Gulf Times.
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