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Arab Science and Tech Fund - Funding Tech Start-ups

The Sharjah-based non-governmental and non-profit regional and international organisation, Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF), is willing to provide an initial funding of up to Dh367,268 ($100,000) to an Arab business plan that could create innovative information technology and other IT-related products.

Those who want to avail of such privilege, however, must first win in the contest that ASTF launched yesterday in cooperation with Intel Corporation, the world leader in silicon innovation. Called the Second Arab Technology Business Plan Competition, the event aims to promote regional Arab technology start-ups with international market appeal.

"We're living in an open world, and the best thing to do is develop innovative products in the Arab world and sell them to the international market," said Abdalla Alnajjar, president of ASTF. "Creating the know-how here is important, then let's put in some added-value and think of how to grow internationally."

Bassem Nasir, higher education manager, Intel Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said the Arabs must start focusing on innovation and education if they want to compete in the global arena. He added that the company is committed to educating the youth and enhancing their entrepreneurial skills through the Intel World Ahead Programme.

"The idea is to help develop a more competitive IT workforce capable of driving innovation and economic growth in the region," he said.

Farhan Kalaldeh, ASTF programme manager, said the profit from ASTF investments in start-ups would be plowed back to the foundation and used to finance other deserving business plans. He said, for instance, that if at least two in 20 new companies would make it in the international market, the returns on ASTF equity investment would be a great help for the other start-ups.

"Entrepreneurs from all Arab countries, whose new ventures are in the seed, start-up or early growth stages are eligible to join the contest," he said.

He added that IT-related business plans include those focusing on communications, media, education, biotechnology and energy, among others. He said that 40 per cent of business plans submitted for last year's competition were on IT.

The main criteria for selection include market potential, capable technology and management teams, and financial viability. "Successful business projects must have passed the research and development (R&D) stage, must be financially feasible and must offer attractive returns on investments," Kalaldeh said.

Winners of the contest will receive $7,500 (first place), $5,000 (second place) and $2,500 (third place). Winning does not guarantee the start-up funding of up to $100,000, however, ASTF officials said.

Alnajjar said that this year the university category "Arab Universities Technology Business Plan" has been merged with the mature entrepreneurs division. The final round of the competition will be held in Jordan on December 10-11.

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