Increasing demand and the abundance of talent are pushing the evolution and growth of the startup industry and entrepreneurship sector in Qatar and the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

“I see more initiative from the younger generation and I see more programmes that encourage and support the youth and the startup ecosystem…the youth is the hope and driving force of the economy, and the effort they exert today is what would define the future of the country”, said QSTP Innovation Centre programme manager for Education Wadha al-Adgham, who is also in charge of the Arab Innovation Academy (AIA) programme.

The AIA, a collaboration between Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), a member of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation, and the European Innovation Academy (EIA), is a hands-on entrepreneurship programme that introduces participants to an accelerated mode of experiential learning, including how to develop and launch a tech startup in a real marketplace with customer feedback.

“The startup industry and entrepreneurship sector in Qatar and the Mena region are growing and evolving as we have more demand and talents realising the importance of startups and the role they play in the growth of the local and regional economy,” al-Adgham told Gulf Times.

Asked about AIA’s role in encouraging, developing, and promoting the culture of entrepreneurship among the youth in Qatar and the Mena region, al-Adgham said the academy helps university students discover their potentials.

“Before becoming successful startups, the whole entrepreneurship journey starts with an idea; eventually some of them would end up as big companies that would contribute to the economic growth of Qatar, so we consider ourselves as the starting point of talents and future startups. We also see ourselves as an environment that nourishes the seeds of entrepreneurship to help their ideas flourish into big plans in the future.

“Our major objective in AIA is to produce talents that have the right mindset – people who have the initiative and know how to use their skills to assist those who need their help. When you nurture talents with the right skillset and give them the proper mindset, they can do anything. They can build startups or join other startups and help develop the economy,” she stressed.

On what sets apart the third edition of the AIA from the previous cycles, al-Adgham said this year’s programme focuses on local talent by increasing the number of participating Qataris or residents of Qatar.

“Another element that differentiates each cycle every year is that the participants bring a kind of energy or vibe and distinctive trait based on the problem that they want to tackle and the solution they offer, so all of this is always unique to the participating group,” she said.

The eligibility criteria for applying in the AIA programme is simple, according to al-Adgham. “For locals, they can nominate themselves and apply. They should be college students, preferably in their third year or towards the end of their bachelor’s studies, or while taking masters or PhD.”

“We want all participants to be on the same wavelength. Also, the skills they learn when they are close to graduating could be implemented immediately, so they won’t forget what they’ve learned from the AIA. However, when we see a very talented student in their first or second year and they are really into it, we do not stop them from joining the programme,” she said.

Al-Adgham added: “For international participants, we require that their universities nominate them and to meet several criteria. The curriculum is delivered in English, so a good command of the language and to have the confidence to communicate in English is crucial.”

QSTP is inviting university students from Qatar and the Mena region to apply for the AIA’s third edition slated from January 7 to 20, 2020. The deadline to apply closes on September 30, 2019. For more information about the program and to apply, visit

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