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Innovation a key focus for GCC governments – GPCA

Saudi Arabia and Qatar making up the top 40 investors in research and development worldwide

GCC states seems to have embarked on an innovation drive while oil prices are extending losses, showing that the commodity remains very volatile.

Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), which represents the downstream hydrocarbon industry in the Gulf says in a statement that regional governments have put innovation as their top national agenda.

GPCA highlights a research report talking about growing R&D budgets in the Arabian Gulf to support their statement.

According to a recent study by US research group Batelle, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar making up the top 40 investors in research and development worldwide in 2014, the region’s sizeable revenues are now being earmarked into significant scientific endeavours.

According to data compiled by Batelle, 2.8 per cent of Qatar’s GDP is allocated to R&D. This is a level similar to that of the US or Germany. Saudi Arabia, although impressive among its GCC peers, comes in at just 0.3 per cent of GDP, the research report says.

“Attempts to drive innovation in the GCC are still at an early stage. But as countries increase R&D spending, the results will have a huge impact on non-oil,” said Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA.

“A similar trend can be seen in the GCC’s petrochemical industry. To sustain their global competitiveness, GCC chemical producers are striving for technological excellence, building world-class production facilities and nurturing local, innovative capability. The mushrooming of innovation centers and technology parks over the last few years across the GCC States is a positive indication that even the chemical industry is poised for substantial technological development,” Al-Sadoun adds.

GPCA voices the common interests of more than 240 member companies from the chemical  and allied industries. The association accounts for over 95 per cent of chemical output in the Gulf region.

The industry makes up the second largest manufacturing sector in the region, producing up to $102.6billion worth of products a year.


An increasing number of chemical patents is also seen as an indicator of the escalating importance of innovational activities in the petrochemical industry.

Patent grants from the GCC in chemistry have seen a five-fold increase in the last decade, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization; in 2013, 288 chemical patents were granted to applicants from the Arabian Gulf, up from 48 patents in 2004, says GPCA.

Together with IT and electronics, the petrochemical industry represents the major share of patent activities over the last five years. Between 2005 and 2012, the average share of chemical patents in total patent grants for the GCC was 53 per cent, while worldwide the average was 14 per cent.

“It is possible that the next technological leap for the petrochemical industry is formulated by an engineer in Abu Dhabi, a scientist in Doha or a researcher in Riyadh or Dhahran City,” continues Al-Sadoun.

“In the future, producers will need to focus on providing the funding and into developing the minds behind the research. Scientific innovation, after all, occurs when the finances and brains converge,” he concludes.