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Qatar urged todevelop technology-intensive SMEs

Qatar needs to develop a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector and make it as technology intensive as possible to pave the way for setting up research and development (R&D), according to an economics expert.

R&D is something that requires finance and a lot of institutional support, but in the absence of an SME sector and the collaboration of universities, there can be no R&D within the SME, said Dr Milford Bateman of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in remarks to The Peninsula.

There was no SME network in place in Qatar at the moment and institutional SME support structures in Qatar were largely absent, said Bateman, noting that a lot of the research and development that take place in EU countries are undertaken in SME sector.

He said that there was a need to establish specialised SME support institution providing direct and long term programme support to SMEs to get established and to grow.

Such initiatives as the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) can help in this direction, he noted, but the Park is rather centered on very high specification industries.

The focus should be the introduction of SMEs across a wide range of industries starting with oil and gas in much bigger number, the idea being to increase the numbers of employees and the numbers of the SMEs themselves, he said.

But it was crucial to identify what technologies they needed and from where and inject training and finance to embed them locally, he said, adding there was a need to cluster SMEs together into Business Incubators specifically for oil and gas-related SMEs.

He added that it was also necessary to provide full support package (feasibility, start-up and growth) to develop subcontracting networks "It is a much bigger vision, but not so high technology as say QSTP," said Bateman who is also Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Pula in Croatia.

Companies with advanced technologies in developed countries are more than willing to transfer technology, but for a price, he said when asked whether they were reluctant to share their know-how.

He said that for international oil and gas companies the idea to support local SMEs was quite routine and they fully accept government requirements that they introduce specific programmes supporting SMEs.

However, there should be constrains on these companies when they come in the country, rather than simply paying money over in terms of revenues with no real spin-off benefit.

There should be conditions attached to agreements with major companies in terms of know how transfer to SMEs which, he pointed out, is at the heart of the Chinese example. "They have got to get something on to the table if they want to join the party. And that wants need to be done and this is possible, because it happens in most of the oil and gas countries," he added.

Bateman presented a report of the Fact Finding Mission on SMEs in Qatar at the workshop which was organised by the General Secretariat of the Development Planning (GSDP) in collaboration with the UNDP. (the peninsula)

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