KAUST Entrepreneurship Pages 31-44
Sustainable Solutions Pages 5-8
Innovative Research Pages 17-20
CONTENTS Sustainable Solutions
From the President
5 Creating Sustainable Food Sources for the Kingdom 7 Hosting a Global Initiative to Save Coral Reefs
Dr. Tony F. Chan, President of KAUST Welcome to the fifth edition of KAUST Impact, which celebrates some of the
Chinese. KAUST research is also featured in a four-episode National Geographic
latest fruits that have translated from KAUST research, education and innovation
series called “Chasing Answers”. Scan the QR code on the inside back cover for
to society, government and industry.
details. More than two dozen KAUST faculty are featured in the series, telling their stories in their own words.
KAUST enters its fourteenth year of operations ready and eager to tell its story. Indeed, the periodical you are reading is just one of many ways in which the
Besides presenting ripe stories from the preceding semester, each issue of KAUST
university makes its fruits known to its local and national neighbors, and to the
Impact features a cluster of articles around a timely theme that has become
entire world. KAUST Impact has two sister publications: KAUST Discovery and
a major emphasis of the university. In the first four issues, these themes have
KAUST Insight. Whereas KAUST Impact (which is now in its third year) reports
been KAUST’s Rapid Research Response to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic,
on the downstream application of a scientific discovery or engineering design
KAUST’s Circular Carbon Initiative, KAUST’s Smart Health Initiative and KAUST
produced by KAUST, KAUST Discovery (in its eighth year) describes the discovery
Smart, a digital initiative to transform the campus community. This issue turns
and its scientific context, usually by digesting a professional scientific publication
the spotlight on KAUST’s entrepreneurship programs – spinouts, startups and
in terms that an educated layperson can appreciate. The primary audience of
training. Whereas most universities appreciate only gradually their potential for
KAUST Discovery is peers in scientific and engineering communities, and the
transforming the economies in which they find themselves, KAUST was chartered
academic community more generally. KAUST Insight (in its second year) tells
for economic transformation – of not just any variety, but of the exciting and
the “story behind the story”, often relating the human drama, the inspiration or
highly innovative transformation that comes from its own “deep technology”.
the serendipity behind the discovery. The audience for KAUST Insight includes
From the moment he arrived, KAUST’s Vice President for Innovation, Dr. Kevin
all who are curious about how science advances as a human endeavor. The
Cullen, has gotten KAUST singing about being “the deep-tech heart of the Saudi
primary audience of KAUST Impact is the university’s external stakeholders,
economy”. Many entrepreneurship stories featuring KAUST’s deep tech have been
though, of course, KAUST community members are equally proud to read it. The
told in the first four issues of KAUST Impact, and we are not repeating them here,
same discovery or invention may well appear in all three of the publications in
but tracing out some recurrent themes and highlighting some recent winners.
a different form. Each magazine is available online and in print, and we hope that readers drawn to one will be drawn, in turn, to the others.
Each feature article in KAUST Impact is empowered by an external stakeholder quotation called out from the text in brackets. If you have only 10 minutes to
Today’s institutions must have many profiles beyond their own print, however.
spend with this issue, read the praise that 28 non-KAUST stakeholders have
As page three shows, KAUST is extensively covered by national and international
given our efforts – all made possible by the dynamism of a Kingdom in pursuit
media. KAUST also has official channels on all major social media, including in
of Vision 2030 and a university catalyst rapidly becoming a global destination.
President Tony Chan
National Engagement 9 Deploying Advanced Training for Saudi Arabia’s Workforce 10 Training Saudi Arabia’s Youth to Succeed 11 Sharing Impactful & Cutting-Edge Research 13 Bringing Science to the Community 14 Building New Roads from Plastic Waste
Clean Energy 15 Advancing the Future of Solar Cells 16 Accelerating Green Technologies through Partnerships & Innovation
Innovative Research 17 Designing a World-Class Vessel for Red Sea Research 18 Partnering with Japan to Study the Depths of the Red Sea 19 Utilizing Artificial Intelligence to Uncover the Kingdom’s Ancient Stone Structures
Talent 21 Preparing Saudi Rhodes Scholars 22 Nurturing Local Talent 23 Demonstrating Research Excellence on the Global Stage 25 Advancing Women in STEM 27 Supporting Saudi Postdoctoral Researchers
Special Section: KAUST Entrepreneurship 31 Translating Research into Entrepreneurship 33 Training the Kingdom’s Next Generation of Entrepreneurs 34 Reusing Saudi Arabia’s Precious Water Resources 35 Feeding the Future with Saltwater-Based Crops 37 Bringing Deep-Tech Entrepreneurs to Saudi Arabia 38 Expanding Saudi Arabia’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ecosystem 39 Developing Cleaner Fuel-Refining Processes for Industry 41 Growing Early-Stage Entrepreneurs into High-Potential Startups 42 Creating Value-Added Solutions for Organic Waste 43 Producing Food in Space
Articles in this issue featuring activities aligned with one (or more) of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations – codified in 2015 and aimed at reducing poverty and hunger; improving health and education; and addressing climate change, environmental degradation and various social challenges – are marked with an icon representing the most closely associated goal. Also marked are articles that are applicable to Vision 2030 goals. KAUST’s mission is deeply intertwined with the development objectives of Vision 2030, such as diversifying the economy well beyond petroleum, embracing innovation, localizing advanced technology and expanding opportunities for Saudi citizens.
Institutional and Research Rankings #97
on US News’ 2022 Best Global Universities list
on Nature Index’s 2021 global list In the
band of the 2021 Academic Ranking of
KAUST in the news
in citations per faculty on the 2021 QS World University Rankings
in Saudi Arabia, with 40% of all publications from the Kingdom, per Nature Index rankings for 2021 (80% of national author share)
KAUST’s subject area-normalized citation impact ranking per US News’ 2022 Best Global Universities list
4 4 4 6 6 8 9 13 14 24 25 30 33 46 89
Condensed Matter Physics Materials Science Polymer Science Chemistry Plant and Animal Science Mathematics Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Physical Chemistry Environment and Ecology Mechanical Engineering Chemical Engineering Optics Energy and Fuels Computer Science Biology and Biochemistry
Placement in Nature Index’s 2021 Young Universities tables
#2 #4 #6
under 20 years of age under 30 years of age under 50 years of age
5 SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS 6
CLAUDIO GRÜNEWALD Project Director and Microalgae Expert
I BELIEVE THAT THE KINGDOM HAS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE TO RUN INDUSTRIAL ALGAL CULTIVATION ALONG THE RED SEA COAST WITH ITS FLAT LAND, CO2 SOURCES, YEAR-ROUND SOLAR IRRADIATION AND PRISTINE SEAWATER.
CREATING SUSTAINABLE FOOD SOURCES FOR THE KINGDOM KAUST and MEWA partner to establish an algal biotechnology industry
technologies applied for the manufacture of feed can help lower environmental impacts. One such solution is the use of algae in aquaculture – the farming of fish in water. Waste is reused by feeding fish algae-based food produced by the DAB-KSA plant and then reusing the water from the tanks used to grow the fish to grow more algae, contributing to a circular economy ecology. With Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea and Gulf coastlines stretching roughly 3,400 km, there is ample opportunity for growth in this area.
KAUST and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) are embarking on a partnership to produce a new source of animal feed for the Kingdom. The project aims to develop technologies that produce high-protein algae at scale that can be used to feed animals such as fish and poultry. The undertaking aligns with Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative’s focus on food security. By helping to establish a sustainable feed industry in Saudi Arabia, the project will support the localization of food supply and reduce the country’s dependence on imported feed. The animal feed industry is a billion-dollar global enterprise; therefore, replacing even a fraction of the Kingdom’s imports with homegrown feed would translate into significant annual savings. The new project, known as the Development of Algal Biotechnology in the Kingdom (DAB-KSA), is being overseen by MEWA’s National Fisheries Development Program and is located on the KAUST campus. Dr. Claudio Grünewald, who joined the university in October 2021, serves as project director. Grünewald brings extensive experience in marine microalgal production, including the engineering expertise that is needed to design, build and operate large-scale aquaculture installations. Phase 1 of the project involves the development of a proof-of-concept pilot facility to produce highprotein algae. The pilot facility, which opened in March 2022, will provide documented data of algae productivity during its first year of operation. Algae are grown from a combination of sunlight, nitrogen, phosphorus and CO2, and can grow in saltwater and freshwater environments. The DAB-KSA plant grows both freshwater and saltwater species of algae rich in protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates in a system of outdoor ponds (raceways) and closed tubes (photobioreactors). A concentrated paste is made from the liquid culture, which is freeze-dried to make the powdered biomass for animal feed. The project is also set to bring environmental benefits. Finite resources such as land, water and energy are used to raise animals and grow their food. Moreover, a considerable share of greenhouse gas emissions stems from feed production and animal processing. Algae-based
NATIONAL FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM “The KAUST algal biotechnology project is in full alignment with the Saudi Vision 2030 objective to advance the green economy, and will significantly contribute to generating environmental, social and economic returns not only for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also for the world.” Ali Al Shaiki, CEO of the National Fisheries Development Program
Once feasibility is demonstrated in Phase 1, the algal biotechnology project will proceed to Phase 2, which involves designing and building a larger aquaculture and algae plant. The production target of dry weight biomass for Phase 1 is between 1.5 and 2 tons. In Phase 2 – expected to run from late 2023 into 2024 – it is hoped this will reach between 50 and 100 tons when the plant expands to a 4-hectare facility. A future goal of DAB-KSA is to apply advanced aquaculture techniques to the Red Sea Project and NEOM, among other in-country projects. KAUST is being primed as a center for wider algal research in the Kingdom. Over the last two years, the university has secured the principal talent and initial equipment needed to accelerate not only the animal feed venture and related food security initiatives of Vision 2030, but also a broad range of algae applications, from rubber to fragrances and medicines. The university is home to the only dedicated applied algal biotechnology lab on the Arabian Peninsula that is working to benchmark local algae strains to assess how different strains behave and tolerate outdoor conditions, with the goal of developing a living library of local strains of commercial value to the Kingdom. Dr. Kyle Lauersen is a KAUST algal expert involved in this effort, in synergy with the DAB-KSA project. As part of the initiative, Lauersen and Grünewald are developing strategies to train the next generation of algal technologists who can help implement these technologies across the Kingdom.
7 SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS 8
TONY CHAN President of KAUST
FROM THE UNIVERSITY’S FOUNDING, RESEARCH ON RED SEA CORAL REEFS HAS BEEN ONE OF KAUST’S EMPHASES AND STRENGTHS. WE ARE THEREFORE
HOSTING A GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO SAVE CORAL REEFS KAUST has a central role in supporting the global Coral Research and Development Accelerator Platform KAUST is playing a central role in supporting a major international G20 initiative, the Coral Research and Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP), which aims to protect and restore corals around the globe. This comes at a critical time for corals, which are facing widespread destruction due to the impacts of human-induced climate change. Among the planet’s most vulnerable ecosystems, coral reefs are impacted by rising ocean temperatures that trigger coral bleaching and mass mortality, acidification, sea level rise, and changing patterns of currents and precipitation. Saudi Arabia and KAUST are deploying their resources to help corals survive and thrive in an increasingly warming world. CORDAP was born from Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the G20 summit in 2020. The international initiative is working to fast-track research and development (R&D) solutions to save the world’s corals. KAUST was selected to serve as the central node of CORDAP, which supports all CORDAP operations. The university is covering the initiative’s administrative costs as an in-kind contribution from Saudi Arabia. This means that every penny of international funding that CORDAP receives goes directly to R&D and other projects. KAUST was a natural fit to serve as host. The university is a global hub of research for the conservation and restoration of coral reefs globally, with cutting-edge infrastructure and extensive expertise. KAUST also has significant experience in managing competitive funding processes, which will be a key feature of CORDAP.
KAUST Professor of Marine Science Carlos Duarte is serving as Executive Director of CORDAP through the Platform Central Node, while Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Dr. Osama Faqeeha is Chair of the Initiative Governing Committee. Director of the US NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program Jennifer Koss serves as Vice Chair of the Initiative Governing Committee. Professor Duarte and KAUST Associate Professor Raquel Peixoto are also on CORDAP’s 19-member Scientific and Advisory Committee, which comprises renowned international coral scientists, managers and engineers. The window to save corals is closing. More than two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs have been lost due to human activity, and 70-90% of
MEWA “Saudi Arabia is custodian of some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Red Sea and is committed to their conservation and restoration. We welcome CORDAP as a much-needed international collaborative effort to secure a future for coral reefs.” Dr. Osama Faqeeha, Chair of the Initiative Governing Committee for CORDAP and Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture
MOTIVATED AND INSPIRED BY THIS GLOBAL EFFORT, AND HAVE OFFERED TO DO OUR PART BY SERVING AS THE PLATFORM’S CENTRAL NODE.
the remaining coral reefs may disappear in the next 10-15 years. For the first time, the functionality of an entire ecosystem that supports millions of species and people may be lost at the hands of humans. Corals bring a range of benefits. They directly support the livelihoods of people around the world, and are a big draw for tourism. They reduce expected storm damage and lower the impacts of flooding. Corals cover only 0.2% of the ocean floor yet support at least 25% of all marine species. They also shelter an estimated 32% of all named marine species. In economic terms, it is estimated that corals bring a total benefit of $12.7 trillion per year – equivalent to more than 15% of global GDP. Innovative technical solutions and large-scale interventions are needed to save corals and reefs. In its time-sensitive mission, CORDAP will support, complement and scale up existing and new initiatives focused on coral conservation, resilience, adaptation and restoration. CORDAP will invest in novel early-phase ideas through to final proof-of-concept development and testing. Its open-source model will allow anyone to advance and use the platform’s technologies. To deliver its mission, CORDAP aims to raise and invest $30 million per year. In 2020, Saudi Arabia pledged $10 million per year for the next 10 years toward the initiative. The pledge signifies Saudi Arabia’s intention to take an active and leading role in global coral protection efforts. Marine conservation is of particular importance for the Kingdom as it develops major new sustainability-focused tourism initiatives, including the highly anticipated Red Sea Project. In March 2022 CORDAP launched its strategic plan for 2022-25. The plan focuses on the types of projects CORDAP will fund, and outlines proposal submissions, review processes and priority investment areas. A number of
R&D efforts already in place could provide a springboard for CORDAP to build, connect and learn from. One example is the NEOM Shousha Coral Garden Project, which will establish several square kilometers of coral reefs in the northern Red Sea using advanced restoration techniques through a partnership between KAUST and NEOM.
9 NATIONAL ENGAGEMENT
NATIONAL ENGAGEMENT 10
SADAIA “The Lifelong Learning Initiative will be a vital element to achieve our national talent development goals in data science
TRAINING SAUDI ARABIA’S YOUTH TO SUCCEED
and artificial intelligence through consistent, diversified and high-quality training programs.”
DEPLOYING ADVANCED TRAINING FOR SAUDI ARABIA’S WORKFORCE
Dr. Majid Altuwaijri, CEO of the National Center for AI and CEO of the Strategy Management Office at SADAIA
KAUST launches an educational training program to support the Kingdom’s key development objectives KAUST recently launched the Lifelong Learning Initiative (LLI), a series of hands-on, educational training courses designed to support the priority objectives of the Kingdom in key development areas, and mobilize the labor market across the public and private sectors.
DR. LAWRENCE CARIN Provost
ONE OF THE KEY GOALS OF THE LIFELONG LEARNING INITIATIVE (LLI) IS TO TAKE THE EXPERTISE DEVELOPED AT KAUST AND BRING IT TO THE KINGDOM. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS ONE OF THE MANY AREAS WHERE KAUST DEMONSTRATES EXCELLENCE, AND THIS WILL BE THE THEME OF OUR FIRST LLI COURSES.
Packaged as micro-courses delivered in a three- to five-day format, the LLI program leverages KAUST expertise in areas such as cybersecurity, food security and semiconductors, and is open to Saudi nationals and residents with a variety of background skills, ranging from recent graduates to business professionals and corporate executives. The inaugural LLI courses focus on the twin themes of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – topics of significant importance to the Kingdom due to their ability to improve efficiency, decision-making and performance in numerous areas of national impact, such as security, medicine, data analysis and digital communications. The first class, Introduction to Machine Learning Bootcamp, was held in early May 2022 in Riyadh. Participants were introduced to the fundamental concepts of machine learning and deep neural networks, developing skills in areas such as network architecture and data visualization, and culminating in an end-to-end machine learning project. Additional courses in AI and other subjects of national and international impact will be added at later dates in different locations across the Kingdom, including on KAUST’s campus, covering topics such as circular carbon, smart health, the environment and cybersecurity, among others. LLI is administered by the KAUST Office of the Provost, with AI class material developed under the supervision of the KAUST Artificial Intelligence Initiative (AII), in partnership with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SADAIA), a government agency established in 2019 to create a data-driven and AI-supported government and economy. SADAIA provides related resources in the areas of research, program development, training and continuous education. The KAUST AII program, directed by Professor Jürgen Schmidhuber, leverages a global network of AI experts to advance interdisciplinary education, outreach and engagement opportunities globally and within Saudi Arabia. The program forms part of KAUST’s commitment to raise the level of knowledge within the Kingdom and disseminate it worldwide through scientific and technical excellence in its academic programs. It is just one of several continuous learning courses KAUST offers to enhance expertise and competencies in the government and the private sector, and support the goals of Vision 2030.
16 KAUST summer school students represent Saudi Arabia at the 2022 International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta, Georgia In May 2022, 35 Saudi students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the 2022 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest global high school competition. Of those participating, 16 were former participants of the Saudi Research Science Institute (SRSI), KAUST’s summer school program. The event, held at the Georgia World Congress Center, hosted 1,700 participating high school students from more than 80 countries. ISEF is administered by the Society for Science, a non-profit based in Washington DC dedicated to championing science, expanding scientific literacy, and promoting effective STEM education and scientific research. The 2022 fair granted nearly $8 million in awards and scholarships. In total, 22 awards were won by Saudi students, representing a major achievement for the Kingdom and its youth. 12 were won by former KAUST SRSI participants – an accomplishment the university is incredibly proud of. Awards were in the fields of energy, chemistry, materials science, environmental engineering, engineering technologies, social sciences, behavioral science, botany and transitional medicine. Saudi Arabia was represented at the fair by the Ministry of Education and the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba). Minister of Education Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh congratulated the Saudi winners, announcing that the students will be granted scholarships in appreciation of their achievements. He also thanked the teachers and families of the students.
MAWHIBA “The remarkable achievements of the talented young Saudis at ISEF 2022 represent a qualitative leap in the talents, capabilities, culture and knowledge of the country’s people, and it heralds a prosperous future.” Dr. Saud Almathami, Secretary-General of Mawhiba
DR. NAJAH ASHRY Vice President for Strategic National Advancement
SUCH AN OUTSTANDING SUCCESS IS FURTHER PROOF OF THE VALUE THAT KAUST’S YOUTH-ORIENTED SCIENCE AND LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS CAN BRING TO THE KINGDOM, ENABLING THE NEXT GENERATION OF SAUDIS TO EXCEL.
KAUST’s SRSI is designed to shape future scientists and leaders of Saudi Arabia. SRSI is a rigorous summer research program designed for 11th-grade students from high schools throughout the country. Students work in state-of-the-art laboratories under the guidance of KAUST faculty, while participating in activities that combine theory courses, hands-on research, and co- and extracurricular events to encourage greater teamwork and leadership. Students develop confidence and interpersonal skills through a wide range of sport, cultural, creative and team-building activities. By introducing talented young students to the transformative potential of STEM disciplines, SRSI inspires the next generation of Saudis to pursue careers in these fields, and provides them with context and support for envisioning their future paths.
11 NATIONAL ENGAGEMENT
NATIONAL ENGAGEMENT 12
DONAL BRADLEY Vice President for Research
KAUST RESEARCH WEEK IS A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO SHOWCASE WHAT WE DO IN OUR RESEARCH AT KAUST. THE INITIATIVE CELEBRATES THE EXCELLENT SCIENCE AT KAUST AND PROVIDES A FORUM TO EXPLORE THE OUTSTANDING RESEARCH OF KAUST ACADEMICS.
SHARING IMPACTFUL & CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH KAUST showcases its science and engineering research at the inaugural KAUST Research Open Week The university opened its doors to schoolchildren, scientists, diplomats, ministry staff and the general public for the inaugural KAUST Research Open Week (KROW). Held across five days in November and December 2021, KROW featured a range of activities, including keynote speeches by external guests, scientific talks by KAUST researchers, a Women in STEM panel, laboratory open days, poster sessions and scientific demonstrations, to increase collaboration internally, celebrate excellence in science, and share cutting-edge research with valued partners and the wider Saudi community. KROW is a new initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Research aimed at showcasing science and engineering excellence at KAUST. This year’s theme, “Sustainability: Science for the Future”, was chosen to provide a positive outlook in the post-pandemic context that resonates across all research areas and is of significant relevance to the Kingdom. The 2022 KROW program featured 27 booths, as well as dozens of talks on science and engineering research across KAUST’s major focus areas of energy, the
environment, water, food and health, and the digital domain. The 13 keynote speakers included Professor Lord Ara Darzi, Co-Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London and member of the UK House of Lords; Manohar Paluri, Director of Artificial Intelligence at Meta, formerly known as Facebook; Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland from 1996 to 2016; Dr. Yasmeen Najm, Innovation and Technology Lead at NEOM; and Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing. Formula One driver Lando Norris also spoke to KROW attendees about the importance of the relationship between KAUST and McLaren, and how it is helping to advance cleaner and more powerful technologies in racing. In addition to thought-provoking talks and panel discussions, attendees were treated to interactive and engaging tours showcasing the front-line research undertaken in KAUST’s core labs and research centers. This behind-the-scenes look at KAUST research facilities and interdisciplinary programs was hosted by technical experts who shed light on the instrumentation, processes and
research activities that support and enable the insights, innovations and discoveries fostered at the university. As part of KAUST’s commitment to inspire the next generation of scientists in the Kingdom, KROW 2022 also included scientific demonstrations involving underwater robots, solar panels, drones and other robotics tools, as well as a series of interactive activities organized under the banner of “Science on the Spine”. Schoolchildren and other community members took part in a variety of scientific experiments, including identifying endangered turtles. The inaugural event, led by Dr. Naadiya Carrim, was a major success, attracting more than 1,150 visitors, including 412 from government entities, 274 business visitors, 245 diplomatic representatives and 86 general visitors. It provided a unique forum for a broader discussion on sustainability in the Kingdom, as well as networking for faculty, research staff, and representatives from industry and government.
MCLAREN RACING “The KAUST campus is amazing. The knowledge, know-how and technology that is being created and developed here is impressive. The KAUST partnership is very important to us.” Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing
13 FOCUS ON ENGAGEMENT ENVIRONMENT NATIONAL
NATIONAL ENGAGEMENT 14
BRINGING SCIENCE TO THE COMMUNITY KAUST brings its annual Science Festival to the communities of Thuwal and Jeddah In January 2022, KAUST hosted its annual Science Festival in the neighboring town of Thuwal, bringing the university’s latest scientific insights and research to the local community. Marking the first time KAUST held the annual event outside of its campus, the event saw the university’s scientists, researchers and campus community come together with the Thuwal and Jeddah communities to explore, innovate and celebrate all things science. As part of an expanded program, people of all ages enjoyed three days of vibrant and diverse activities, including a variety of science exhibits, daily evening science shows, inspiring talks from faculty members, STEM challenges for kids, and science projects that were on display from The KAUST School’s students. Overall, the festival welcomed 7,000 visitors. Local schools also took part in numerous challenges and competitions that celebrated the potential of the next generation of Saudi scientists and innovators. TONY CHAN President of KAUST
THE KAUST SCIENCE FESTIVAL HAS BECOME A HIGHLIGHT IN SAUDI ARABIA’S SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CALENDAR. IT IS FAST BECOMING A PRIMARY PLATFORM TO INSPIRE AND PROMOTE YOUNG SCIENTIFIC MINDS, AND UNLEASH THE POWER OF SCIENCE
Thuwal’s secondary school for boys won first place in the Make a Difference Challenge, where students presented unique engineering solutions to assist people with disabilities. Saabar Intermediate School took first place in the Bridges Challenge, for which students designed small, aesthetically pleasing, sturdy bridges. Thuwal’s elementary school for girls won the Science Poster Competition based on their research of a STEM topic and design presentation. The festival showcased a number of exhibits relating to KAUST’s work, including the Core Labs, Startup Fair, Museum of Failed Scientific Attempts and interactive robots that roamed the site. There was also an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to re-write the rules of sustainable tourism. The exhibition featured whale sharks, shura trees, coral reefs and marine-simulation ponds. The festival was part of KAUST’s efforts to inspire the next generation of scientific talent in Saudi Arabia and the wider MENA region. The university is working to capitalize on innovation as a basis for discovery and invention, and unlock the power of science to cement the Kingdom as a knowledgebased economy in line with Vision 2030. Events such as the KAUST Science Festival help to catalyze local talent and further position the university as a leader in science and technology in the Kingdom.
MAYOR OF THUWAL
TO ACHIEVE THE UNITED
“This event had a positive impact on the people of Thuwal, especially
students and our children, who were left inspired as a result of interacting
with scientific experiences and learning about discoveries that serve humanity in energy, water, the environment and digital technology.” Rashad Al-Jahdali, Mayor of Thuwal
BUILDING NEW ROADS FROM PLASTIC WASTE KAUST launches its Green Roads initiative in support of the circular carbon economy KAUST has launched a new initiative in collaboration with Dow Chemical Company and Napco National to use plastic waste as a raw material for new road infrastructure. Known as the Green Roads initiative, the project will demonstrate the potential of an innovative technology that allows plastic to be made into a sustainable bitumen using a conventional modifier. The new material will be used to construct a proof-of-concept road on the KAUST campus, with the goal to build roads in other locations across the Kingdom. As part of the initiative, hundreds of volunteers from KAUST and the broader community in Thuwal participated in a clean-up campaign in April 2022, removing waste along a stretch of the KAUST-Jeddah highway. The plastic waste collected will be used as raw material for the new road. The road is expected to sustain prolonged exposure to tough external factors such as high temperatures and traffic loads, reducing the need for road maintenance. The effort aligns with the Kingdom’s growing focus on environmental protection, sustainability and the circular carbon economy that encompasses the “four Rs”: reduce, remove, reuse and recycle. In 2021, the Kingdom launched a whole-of-government and whole-of-society environmental program called the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), which aims to grow the green economy and protect the environment. With more than 60 initiatives under its umbrella, SGI focuses on a range of priorities, including reducing carbon emissions, planting millions of trees throughout the country and region, and implementing biodiversity protection plans.
DR. NAJAH ASHRY Vice President for Strategic National Advancement
WE ARE PROUD TO BE ENGAGING AND EMPOWERING LOCAL COMMUNITIES TO PLAY THEIR PART IN THE TRANSITION FROM A LINEAR ECONOMY TO A CIRCULAR ONE, AND ADDRESS THE GLOBAL CHALLENGE OF WASTE AND POLLUTION. The initiative comes at a time when KAUST is launching a range of programs to bring its sustainability research focus in line with its campus sustainability practices. The university has appointed Ana Margarida Costa as Head of Sustainability to oversee KAUST’s sustainability drive. A primary aim is to position KAUST as one of the most sustainable universities in the world. The Green Roads initiative is just one example of KAUST’s many sustainability projects in action, and illustrates the university’s corporate social responsibility.
DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY “I am proud to see this collaboration between our two institutions. KAUST’s Green Roads initiative is a great opportunity for Dow to engage with KAUST on a sustainability initiative in a region with significant growth potential. Together, we are paving the way to a more sustainable future for Saudi Arabia.” Moosa Al Moosa, Country President of Dow Saudi Arabia
15 CLEAN ENERGY
CLEAN ENERGY 16
CUBIC PV “Combining high performance with damp-heat stability brings the promise of PSC technology a major step closer to large-scale production reality.”
ADVANCING THE FUTURE OF SOLAR CELLS
Frank van Mierlo, CEO of Cubic PV
KAUST study helps to bring a new generation of solar cells closer to commercialization KAUST researchers have conducted a breakthrough test on an emerging type of solar power cell known as perovskite solar cells (PSCs), proving their stability and performance. The results are set to help increase the efficiency of solar cells across a range of applications, from utility-scale plants to residential panels. As global sustainability and clean energy mega-trends impact how we approach energy strategies, renewable technologies such as wind and solar are leading areas of research. In the solar technology space, silicon solar cells dominate the market. PSCs are an emerging technology that has gained popularity in the last decade and a half for offering high-power conversion efficiencies. They are thinfilm devices built with layers of materials, either printed or coated from liquid inks or vacuum-deposited. To be successfully commercialized, however, PSCs will need to meet stability and scalability requirements. STEFAAN DE WOLF Associate Professor of Material Science and Engineering
TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE, HIGH-EFFICIENCY RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES NEED TO BE RAPIDLY DEPLOYED AT MULTI-TERAWATT SCALE. STABLE AND EFFICIENT THIN-FILM PEROVSKITE SOLAR CELLS CAN BE A TRUE GAME-CHANGER TOWARD THIS GOAL.
In a recently published Science paper titled “Damp heat–stable perovskite solar cells with tailoreddimensionality 2D/3D heterojunctions”, KAUST researchers reported a significant milestone reached through the first-ever successful photovoltaic (PV) damp-heat test of PSCs. The damp-heat test is an accelerated and rigorous environmental aging test aimed at determining the ability of solar panels to withstand prolonged exposure to high humidity and elevated temperatures. The test is run for 1,000 hours under a controlled environment of 85% humidity and 85°C. It is meant to replicate multiple years of outdoor exposure, and evaluate factors such as corrosion and delamination. The harshness of the test is in line with commercialization requirements that state PV technology must cover 25 to 30 years of warranty for conventional crystalline-silicon modules. In order to pass the test, the solar cell has to maintain 95% of its initial performance. Applied through a thin-film coating process, perovskites are sensitive and highly affected by the presence of humidity. This vulnerability of 3D perovskite films allows an unwanted infiltration of atmospheric agents, such as moisture, with limited resilience against heat. KAUST researchers found that engineering and introducing 2D perovskite passivation layers blocked moisture and simultaneously enhanced the power-conversion efficiency and life of PSCs. While the current solar market is firmly silicon-based, thin-film PSC technology is set to enhance the existing PV industry. A PSC can be overlaid on a silicon cell to increase efficiency without adding substantial cost. One of the significant advantages is that materials for PSCs can be made without the need for expensive facilities and energy-intensive environments, which is typical for more traditional semiconductors such as silicon. The KAUST Photovoltaics Lab is focusing on improving the performance of PSCs in order to advance this more efficient tandem solution of pairing silicon cells and perovskites.
ACCELERATING GREEN TECHNOLOGIES THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS & INNOVATION KAUST and ACWA Power expand collaboration by hosting an innovation conference In March 2022, KAUST and ACWA Power hosted a two-day innovation conference called Innovation Days, representing the latest initiative born of the partnership between the two institutions. Innovation Days is a platform to support the development of technologies that can help solve local and global needs. It hosts leading business executives, innovators, researchers and academics from Saudi Arabia and around the world to showcase expertise in renewable energy, green hydrogen, artificial intelligence and seawater desalination. Topics of discussion at this first edition included the acceleration of green technologies through innovation, the role of technology in the energy transition, and the integration of renewables and hydrogen into the energy mix. ACWA Power is a leading developer, investor and operator of power generation, water desalination and green hydrogen plants, and is well positioned, along with KAUST, to advance the latest developments in the field of clean energy. The conference builds on a close alliance between the two organizations. In 2019, KAUST and ACWA Power initiated a long-term research and innovation partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding inaugurating the KAUST-ACWA Power Center of Excellence for Desalination and Solar Power. One of the aims of the partnership is to place Saudi Arabia at the forefront of international scientific advancements in water desalination and solar power technology. A focus is to apply industry-oriented
ACWA POWER “With KAUST, we have built a close partnership that has already borne fruit via a dynamic research hub. We hope that the dialogue around Innovation Days inspires tangible solutions to realize a greener future.” Paddy Padmanathan, Vice Chairman and CEO of ACWA Power
DONAL BRADLEY Vice President for Research
WE WORK CLOSELY WITH PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM, INCLUDING MINISTRIES, NEOM AND LEADING COMPANIES, AND WE ARE DELIGHTED TO COUNT ORGANIZATIONS OF THE CALIBER OF ACWA POWER AMONG OUR EXCELLENT COLLABORATORS.
research to produce desalinated water and solar power responsibly, efficiently, reliably and at the lowest possible cost. The partners are currently collaborating on hydrogen electrolyzer technologies for green hydrogen production, and high-efficiency bifacial photovoltaic panels. KAUST President Tony Chan said, “KAUST and ACWA Power share a common goal to advance science and technology through bold and collaborative research and education, while addressing challenges of national, regional and global significance.” Paddy Padmanathan, Vice Chairman and CEO of ACWA Power, said, “As a company that is driving the energy transition globally, innovation lies at the heart of our growth and development strategy. We are constantly pursuing new solutions to address global power and water needs. It is imperative that we engage with the local innovation ecosystem to integrate researchers’ work into our facilities.”
17 INNOVATIVE RESEARCH
INNOVATIVE RESEARCH 18
DESIGNING A WORLDCLASS VESSEL FOR RED SEA RESEARCH KAUST selects naval architecture firm Glosten to design a new ship with advanced capabilities for Red Sea research In keeping with its mission to conduct world-class marine research and support Saudi Arabia’s goals to study and protect marine environments, KAUST is investing in a state-of-the-art oceanographic research vessel (RV) to replace the university’s existing Thuwal RV. KAUST has selected the naval architecture company Glosten to design the ship. The new RV will provide advanced research capabilities for work in both shallow reef and deepwater environments, including a reconfigurable deck for multipurpose jobs and equipment, and weather-hardy traits for managing the unique conditions of the Red Sea. The near-22-year-old Thuwal RV, originally designed as a fishing vessel for navigating the coastal waters of Australia, has served KAUST scientists for as many as 220 days at sea per year since 2013. However, the retrofitted 34.7-meter-long RV is limited in the tasks and sea conditions it can handle. As KAUST expands its research ambitions for studying the Red Sea, a robust vessel with optimal functionality is required.
GLOSTEN “Our team is excited to bring this new level of research vessel capability to the Red Sea region. Optimizing a vessel for KAUST for the specific conditions of the operating area and research needs requires a high level of engagement between our engineers and the KAUST team. This is when we are at our best.” Ken FitzGerald, Principal of the Ocean Engineering Group at Glosten
PARTNERING WITH JAPAN TO STUDY THE DEPTHS OF THE RED SEA KAUST partners with Japan marine agency to advance Red Sea research
DONAL BRADLEY Vice President for Research
OUR INVESTMENT IN A WORLD-CLASS RESEARCH VESSEL UNDERSCORES A COMMITMENT TO FULLY SUPPORT OUR PARTNERS HERE IN SAUDI ARABIA AND AROUND THE WORLD, AND GIVE KAUST FACULTY, RESEARCHERS AND STUDENTS UNRIVALED INFRASTRUCTURE TO PURSUE THEIR EXCITING RESEARCH PLANS. The Glosten-designed ship will bring increased stability and reliability for operating year-round in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, and areas with similar tropical waters and climatic conditions. Custom-designed features will meet a range of oceanographic missions, including seawater, sediment and biological sampling to the full depth of the Red Sea – some 3000 meters. At 50 meters in length, the vessel will be significantly larger and offer a greater range of operational capabilities. The deck will be designed to deploy heavy equipment and sophisticated instrumentation for multiple disciplines, including geoscience, bioscience, marine science and oceanographic research interests. The RV will be equipped with an advanced positioning system to enable the deployment of long-duration remote and autonomous vehicles, as well as geoscience sampling systems. The combined features will position KAUST to make new discoveries that enhance investigations and collaborations, and evolve knowledge about this young ocean that will, in turn, better support the Kingdom and its environmental and economic initiatives, including the NEOM, Amaala and Red Sea giga-projects. The ship will be the only advanced marine vessel of its kind that is uniquely built for and dedicated to conducting research in the Red Sea, and will be run by scientists and crew with expertise specific to this body of water. The project is slated to be completed in 2026.
A new partnership between KAUST and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) applies shared expertise and new technologies to advance research in the shallow reef and deepwater environments of the Red Sea. The collaboration, made possible with funds from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as the KAUST Office of the Vice President for Research, provides a crossdisciplinary, multi-divisional platform for researchers to investigate and explore the Red Sea, which still has many areas to be discovered and better understood. Partnerships such as this highlight the importance of international collaboration. The KAUST-JAMSTEC initiative will help address critical data gaps about the Red Sea. Given the sea’s central role in the Kingdom’s giga-projects, it will also provide useful information to guide government regulations for its development and protection. KAUST-JAMSTEC scientists completed their first research cruise in February 2022 to the Al-Wajh platform, a reef complex located in the mesophotic layer of the Red Sea, which features active volcano vents, hot submarine springs, metal-rich brine pools, and a world of biological organisms uniquely evolved to survive there. Scientists from both teams are in the early stages of analyzing the data collected, which will provide a baseline of research to build on. Temperatures in the sea’s deep brine pools can exceed 70°C in some places — the threshold for most industrial scientific electronics to function. Whereas KAUST instruments might corrode, melt or float in such extreme conditions, JAMSTEC equipment is designed to withstand high-saline, high-temperature and highpressure environments, and perform in depths greater than 3000 meters – an essential attribute for performing integrated geo- and bioscience studies. JAMSTEC’s equipment includes remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles and human-operated vehicles. KAUST crew with the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab are experienced engineers, skilled in the deployment of equipment from the Thuwal research vessel, and have in-depth knowledge of the sea acquired from managing oceanic missions there for 13 years. The partners aim to collaborate on multiple areas of research in the future, such as investigating the Red Sea’s tectonic features, seismic activity and oceanic crust. KAUST-JAMSTEC scientists and engineers also see an opportunity to develop a new generation of instruments designed specifically for use in the Red Sea’s extreme environments. The collaboration could produce tools that would be valuable for both Japan and Saudi Arabia. With the information gathered to date and more to come, the team is building an open-source database of the Red Sea, utilizing artificial intelligence to identify fish, corals, plankton and other living organisms. It will act as a multidisciplinary living library with information intended to educate future generations.
LLOYD SMITH Director of the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab
THE KAUST-JAMSTEC PARTNERSHIP ENABLES US TO CONDUCT MORE ADVANCED SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION OF THE RED SEA. WHILE KAUST BRINGS EXTENSIVE OPERATIONAL AND RED SEA EXPERTISE, JAMSTEC KNOWS HOW TO MAKE THE TOOLS
JAMSTEC “Japan is pushing for more technological and bilateral research collaboration with Saudi Arabia. The partnership with KAUST is a great match, and the potential of getting interesting results or discoveries in the Red Sea is very high.” Sean Toczko, Deputy Group Leader of Expedition Management at JAMSTEC
THAT CAN SURVIVE IN THE RED SEA’S EXTREME MARINE ENVIRONMENTS.
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UTILIZING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO UNCOVER THE KINGDOM’S ANCIENT STONE STRUCTURES the Arabic word for rectangles, in northwest Saudi Arabia, as well as ruins in circular and triangular shapes. The mustatils range from a few meters to hundreds of meters in length, and date to the late 6th millennium BCE.
KAUST researchers have automated archaeological land survey practices, opening doors for science and heritage
The approach uses a deep machine learning algorithm trained on datasets manually identified by Hapiot. Once the algorithm is trained, it is able to isolate thousands of features with similar characteristics over a wide area. When a new structure is detected, the tool can convert the relevant pixels into geodetic coordinates using a global positioning system (GPS), and assemble them into an online map and database for analysis. The technology could be used for other surveying exercises to detect any large object in an open landscape.
KAUST researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of archaeology in Saudi Arabia, providing a detailed land survey of a historically significant but little-studied region. The results could speed up archaeological discoveries in the Kingdom, create new knowledge for the promotion of cultural heritage, and provide a methodology useful to other sectors of the economy. The team, composed of Virgile Blua, a visiting student in the Image and Video Understanding Laboratory (IVUL); Dr. Silvio Giancola, Research Scientist for IVUL and the AI Initiative; Dr. Laurence Hapiot, KAUST Archaeological Research and Cultural Outreach Fellow; and Professor Bernard Ghanem, Principal Investigator for IVUL and Deputy Director of the AI Initiative, came together after Hapiot, who holds a PhD in archaeology from Panthéon-Sorbonne University, identified the scope for multidisciplinary collaboration. The project is funded by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and IVUL. The initiative is part of an emerging research field called computational archaeology, which employs high-speed computational processing methods to analyze large volumes of data. The team created a software to automate the detection of stone structures using pictures of land collected from satellite imagery. For more than a decade, archaeologists have been manually using open-access satellite images and search software such as Google Earth to find clues to the possible location of ruins or ancient civilizations, and then conduct site visits. In this case, the KAUST team used an automated process to survey ancient walled structures called mustatils, from
SAUDI HERITAGE COMMISSION “Artificial intelligence and machine learning help to rapidly interpret vast amounts of data from archaeological sites across the Kingdom. The Saudi Heritage Commission welcomes KAUST’s efforts to use the latest technology for studying ancient hilltop stone structures. This may help us learn more about their function and distribution, as well as the ancient populations that built them.” Dr. Jasir Al-Harbash, CEO of the Heritage Commission – Ministry of Culture
The vast area under study in the Kingdom is estimated to have thousands of these monumental stone structures. With Saudi Arabia covering roughly two million square kilometers, traditional search and detection methods could take months or years to complete, compared to the five hours it takes the team’s AI-enabled strategy. KAUST’s new solution can not only speed up that process, but also answer questions about the size, volume and distribution of ancient remains, or assess if the presence of a structure means there is likely to be a similar or related structure in the vicinity. A data-driven and machine learning tool of such archaeological importance could help fulfill the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals by recording, preserving and highlighting the country’s unique heritage. This would also serve to support the development of a tourism economy. Saudi Arabia’s open landscape is ideal for this type of technology, which could be made available elsewhere in the region where there are similar topographical traits. Further collaboration between archaeology and AI could be initiated by either archaeologists looking for help, or data scientists aware of existing archaeological studies that might benefit from these applications.
LAURENCE HAPIOT Archaeological Research and Cultural Outreach Fellow
THIS PROJECT DEMONSTRATES HOW KAUST IS A UNIQUE PLACE FOR MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH. VERY FEW ENVIRONMENTS CAN PROMOTE QUICK INTEGRATION OF DEEP TECHNICAL CONCEPTS SUCH AS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN COLLABORATION WITH ARCHAEOLOGISTS. THE OUTCOME IS A UNIQUE UNDERSTANDING OF THE GLOBAL PRESENCE OF STONE STRUCTURES.
PREPARING SAUDI RHODES SCHOLARS KAUST program participants are awarded one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships For the second year in a row, three Saudi undergraduates were selected as Rhodes scholars, joining the oldest and one of the most prestigious communities of scholars in the world. Of these, two awardees are from a STEM field and are current participants or alumni of a KAUST program. The Rhodes Trust awards 100 international scholarships each year to young leaders who demonstrate outstanding intellect and character, and who are motivated to engage with pressing global challenges. Awardees receive a full scholarship to further explore their areas of research interest while pursuing graduate studies at the University of Oxford. This year’s success mirrors that of 2021 – the first time that three Saudi students were selected as Rhodes scholars in a single cohort. Notably, of the six Saudi Rhodes scholars selected in the past two years, five are beneficiaries of one or more KAUST student research or talent development programs. This exemplifies the university’s commitment to and success in fostering the next generation of the nation’s scientists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Coming from different backgrounds, universities and research areas, these scholars represent the enormous potential of the Kingdom’s youth, as well as the opportunities that Saudi Arabia’s ever-increasing commitment to education and development has afforded. Such achievements reinforce KAUST’s success in capacity-building through transformational opportunities, underscoring the impact at the individual, institutional and national level that world-class academic programming, mentorship and support have in catalyzing internationally competitive innovators.
KAUST SUMMER INTERNSHIP PARTICIPANT “KAUST’s facilities provided me the scientific tools for high-quality research. I realized that I can compete with students in different parts of the world, which encouraged me to apply for the Rhodes scholarship.” Mohammed Alghadeer, 2022 Rhodes scholar
NURTURING LOCAL TALENT KAUST alumni and student researchers win national and international recognition KAUST alumni and current students continue to win national and international awards and honors, underlining the critical role the university plays in nurturing the Kingdom’s next generation of science and engineering talent. DR. NAJAH ASHRY Vice President for Strategic National Advancement
WE AT KAUST PLAY OUR ROLE IN SUPPORTING THE NATIONAL VISION BY EQUIPPING AND ENABLING THE NEXT GENERATION OF SAUDI SCIENTISTS, THOUGHT LEADERS, INNOVATORS AND ENTREPRENEURS – IT IS WHAT WE DO BEST.
Ahmed Aljohani joined the KAUST Gifted Student Program in 2017 before going on to study at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2021, he returned to KAUST and interned with Professor Salim Babili at the KAUST Center for Desert Agriculture. At the University of Oxford, he plans to study marine biology and eventually return to Saudi Arabia to work on Red Sea coral reef preservation and rehabilitation.
Mohammed Alghadeer obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics and engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals before participating in the KAUST Saudi Summer Internship program in 2021. There, he worked with Professor Hossein Fariborzi to develop new surface treatments to reduce coherent losses in quantum devices. Alghadeer is currently collaborating with the Quantum Nanoelectronics Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Oxford he plans to study condensed matter physics with a research focus on quantum information technology.
AHMAD SHOWAIL KAUST Alumnus and Fulbright Scholar
KAUST SHAPED ME AS A RESEARCHER.
Dr. Noha Al-Harthi Technology Lead at NEOM Dr. Noha Al-Harthi, who completed her master’s and doctorate in computer science at KAUST, was recently named Woman of the Year in the field of science and technology at the Arabian Business KSA Women Excellence Awards, a major prize for women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom. It marks another significant milestone in Al-Harthi’s promising young career; she previously became the first researcher from the Middle East, along with KAUST doctoral student Rabab AlOmairy, to win the prestigious German Gauss Center for Supercomputing Award in 2020 for original research that best advances high-performance computing. Al-Harthi currently serves as Technology Lead at NEOM, where she heads initiatives on emerging technologies such as advanced robotics and human-machine interfaces.
Rabab AlOmairy PhD student Rabab AlOmairy, a doctoral student in computer science at KAUST, was recently selected as one of the Rising Stars in Computational and Data Sciences, a program and workshop hosted by US government agency Sandia National Laboratories. Rising Stars organizes workshops for female graduate students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing academic and research careers. Acceptance is an honor; on average only 25% of nominations are selected each year. AlOmairy, the co-winner of the German Gauss Center for Supercomputing Award in 2020, was one of the few non-US nationals selected for the 2022 Rising Stars workshop at the University of Texas at Austin.
THE FACULTY TAUGHT ME ALWAYS TO SEEK TO INNOVATE AT THE CUTTING EDGE AND TACKLE THE MOST IMPACTFUL ISSUES. KAUST DEFINITELY HAD A GREAT IMPACT ON MY PERSONALITY AS A RESEARCHER. KAUST alumnus Ahmad Showail recently secured a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research at the University of California Irvine in collaboration with Assistant Professor Faisal Nawab, also a university alumnus. Showail graduated from KAUST’s 2009 founding class, earning a master’s of computer science before joining the networking lab of Professor Basem Shihada. He completed a doctorate in computer science at KAUST in 2016, after which he taught and researched at universities in Madinah. The Fulbright Program is considered one of the most competitive, widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world. Showail submitted a project proposal to develop cutting-edge technology that would ensure greater privacy for the internet of things.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN “Rising Stars in Computational and Data Sciences is about building a network of women who are destined to lead us toward the full potential of high-performance computing as simulation and big data converge. We are happy to see KAUST developing stars in the interdisciplinary field of computational engineering and sciences.” Karen E. Willcox, Director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin
DEMONSTRATING RESEARCH EXCELLENCE ON THE GLOBAL STAGE Awards and recognition of KAUST faculty showcase the Kingdom’s scientific leadership Saudi Arabia’s international research profile continues to grow as KAUST faculty members drew further awards and honors from distinguished scientific organizations in 2022. Their contributions to global scientific inquiry across the fields of chemistry, physics, applied mathematics, engineering and marine science are helping to drive the Kingdom’s transformation toward a knowledge-based economy in line with the overarching policy goals of Vision 2030.
Yu Han Professor of Chemical Sciences and Chemical Engineering Han has been awarded the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, which honors researchers for their outstanding work by sponsoring a project of their choosing in Germany, where they work in close collaboration with fellow experts. Han, who had previously been designated a highly cited researcher by Clarivate in 2019-21, is affiliated with KAUST’s Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center and Catalysis Center. His research interests include the synthesis of nanoporous and nanostructured materials, the resolution of their complicated structures, the and development of novel applications for these materials.
Distinguished Professor of Chemical Science
Hadjichristidis was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in recognition of the immense contributions he has made to the field of polymer chemistry over a number of years. The Royal Society of Chemistry is the UK’s professional body for chemists and the largest organization in Europe for advancing chemical sciences. Hadjichristidis’ research focuses on macromolecular engineering and has been key to improving the performance of industrial polymers such as polyethylene, as well as designing new materials.
Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science
Markowich was named a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), a UK-chartered professional body for mathematicians. IMA Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have shown demonstrable achievement and competence in the development or application of mathematics. Markowich’s research applies differential mathematics to physics, artificial intelligence, biology and engineering. In particular, he focuses on deepening the understanding of the mathematical and numerical analysis of partial differential equations and their application in the aforementioned disciplines.
TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITÄT DRESDEN “We are excited to host Professor Yu Han in Dresden in June 2022. We are proud to initiate a high-level cooperation in the field of advanced porous materials with an outstanding expert in the field of high-resolution electron microscopy of beam-sensitive materials.” Stefan Kaskel, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Technische Universität Dresden
Raquel Peixoto Associate Professor of Marine Science Peixoto, who works in KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center, was recognized as a Fellow of the International Coral Reef Society for her contributions to the field of coral probiotics. The International Coral Reef Society is the principal scientific association dedicated to coral reef research worldwide, and works to secure the preservation of these marine ecosystems. Peixoto’s research on how probiotics can be helpful protagonists in boosting coral health and preventing mortality is helping to spearhead global microbiome discussions and discoveries.
Sahika Inal Associate Professor of Bioscience Inal was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in recognition of her impact in the field of chemical sciences. As leader of the Organic Bioelectronics group at KAUST, Inal’s research interests cover organic electronic materials and devices that can address research and clinical health monitoring and therapy needs. She is the author of 90+ publications, and her work has been cited more than 6,500 times. Her election as an RSC Fellow follows other recent recognitions, including the 2022 PMSE Young Investigator Award conferred by the American Chemical Society.
Husam Alshareef Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Alshareef was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the highest membership level attainable within the organization. The honor is reserved for those who have had a significant research impact in physics or a related field. Alshareef is the principal investigator of the KAUST Functional Nanomaterials and Devices Laboratory, with a research interest in developing nanoscale materials for energy storage, electronics and sensors. His group is engaged in the synthesis of advanced nanomaterials and, increasingly, their relevant practical applications in the Kingdom.
Athanasios Tzavaras Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computational Science Tzavaras was elected a Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences, a prestigious organization which counts 45 Nobel Prize winners among its members. Tzavaras’ research interests include mathematical modeling, analysis, and computation of fluids and materials. He also has an interest in hyperbolic conservation laws and the structure of the equations of fluid mechanics and elasticity. At KAUST, he is the Principal Investigator of the Applied Partial Differential Equations research group.
Elmootazbellah Elnozahy Professor of Computer Science Elnozahy was elected to the rank of National Academy of Inventors Fellow, joining five other KAUST faculty members who share this honor: Boon Ooi, Charlotte Hauser, Jean Frechet, Donal Bradley and JeanMarie Basset. The National Academy of Inventors Fellow designation is the most prestigious professional distinction for academic inventors. Elnozahy holds 58 patents in the field of information technology. His research centers on systems, including high-performance computing, poweraware computing, fault tolerance and system architecture.
MINISTRY OF INVESTMENT “WiSER is an extraordinarily empowering initiative that has created an impactful platform for women in STEM to share their successes, struggles and stories. I hope to see this initiative grow in reach and size, as we can already sense its deep and personal impact.” Dr. Sara F. Althari, Managing Director of Biotech and Pharma, and Advisor to the Minister at the Ministry of Investment
ADVANCING WOMEN IN STEM New programs to inspire, train and launch women into STEM careers Women to Impact (WTI), an initiative at KAUST aimed at offering a supportive framework to encourage women to pursue STEM education and careers, sent out a call last year for technology-based solutions to build resilience in local ecosystems. Open to teams of male and female innovators in the Kingdom and beyond, the competition ran under the sponsorship of Saudi asset management firm SEDCO Holding, and was part of KAUST’s annual Winter Enrichment Program (WEP). Following a December 2021 submission deadline, the WTI steering committee and scientific taskforce, which are led by WTI Founder and KAUST Manager of IT Planning and Project Management Inji Jaber, evaluated more than 300 submissions from teams located around the world. The WTI’s judging criteria looked for practical and technology-based innovations to tackle important problems and build resilience against climate change, natural disasters, epidemics, food insecurity and environmental degradation. The top-five teams were selected in January 2022, and were subsequently invited to present their pitches virtually during the WEP. The three winners, announced during the WEP’s closing award ceremony, received financial
awards of $10,000, $7,000 and $5,000. First place went to a Turkish team of biomedical engineers for their proposed solution to detect and prevent antimicrobial resistance, a threat which could cost 10 million lives by 2050. Second place went to a KAUST team of professors and students for their proposed soil fertility solution to combat water loss in Middle Eastern agricultural systems. A global team comprising UAE-, KAUST- and UK-based scholars won third place for its innovative lab mask, which monitors stress and anxiety through a mobile phone app.
WiSER is a faculty-driven initiative, launched by Professor of Chemical Science Niveen Khashab in 2020. The governing committee includes KAUST Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Chemical and Environmental Science and Engineering Suzana Nunes, and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Deanna Lacoste. The annual WiSER conference is the main event; it coincides with International Woman’s Day on March 8, and serves as a springboard for launching more activities. In March 2022, more than 500 participants attended two days of workshops featuring speakers from a diverse array of scientific fields and at varying stages of their career. The conference included more than 300 Saudi women from across the Kingdom working in academia, industry and government, alongside more than 100 participants from international institutions, including Nobel Prize winners and CEOs.
In addition to cash prizes, the winning teams receive valuable guidance and mentorship from KAUST faculty, while entrepreneurship experts from KAUST Innovation help them execute, scale and successfully pitch their concept to potential investors.
WiSER provides a range of services to support women in their careers, aligned with the Kingdom’s goal to prepare and integrate women in all sectors of society. In addition to encouraging and enabling women to succeed in STEM, WiSER supports them in all aspects of their lives to ensure their social and psychological well-being. It offers regular lectures, panel discussions, networking opportunities, internships, lab resources, and access to mentors and other professionals such as psychologists and social workers.
The WTI initiative forms part of the university’s wider commitment to empower female researchers to address global challenges through innovative scientific and technological solutions. Its work is mutually beneficial and complementary to that of Women in Science and Engineering Research (WiSER), another KAUST program.
“Under the leadership of President Tony Chan and Provost Lawrence Carin, and through initiatives like WiSER, KAUST has positioned itself as the premier institute in the Middle East, with a clear vision and mission for women’s empowerment and advancement,” Niveen M. Khashab, Professor of Chemistry and WiSER Program Chair, said.
SUZANA NUNES Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Chemical and Environmental Science and Engineering
OUR ANNUAL WiSER WORKSHOP SERVES AS A CELEBRATION OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF FEMALE SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS, AND IS AN INSPIRATION FOR NEW GENERATIONS OF FEMALE STUDENTS WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING THESE CAREER PATHS.
UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND
SUPPORTING SAUDI POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHERS
“The prestigious KAUST Ibn Rushd Postdoctoral Fellowship program brings together the best and brightest. I am delighted to have Dr. Abdulaziz Bati, a rising star in next-generation thin-film photovoltaics, as part of our team at the Centre for Organic Photonics and Electronics.” Professor Paul Burn, Director of the Centre for Organic Photonics and Electronics at the University of Queensland
12 recent Saudi PhD scholars have been awarded a prestigious new KAUSTfunded overseas research fellowship
OSMAN BAKR Vice Provost for Strategy and Chair of the Ibn Rushd Postdoctoral Fellowship program
I AM CONFIDENT THE IBN RUSHD POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM WILL BE A GREAT ASSET TO SAUDI ARABIA AND OUR GROWING POPULATION OF ACADEMICS AT KAUST. THE PROGRAM IS THE LATEST EXAMPLE OF KAUST’S STRATEGY TO SUPPORT SAUDI TALENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Earlier this year, KAUST awarded prestigious postdoctoral fellowships to 12 exceptional Saudi PhD students or recent PhD graduates to pursue research at globally recognized institutions. The first cohort of the Ibn Rushd Postdoctoral Fellowship program are some of the Kingdom’s brightest minds. With KAUST’s support, they are undertaking postdoctoral research at world-leading universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Queensland and the University of Toronto. The Ibn Rushd Postdoctoral Fellowship is inspired by and named after Ibn Rushd, a well-travelled and influential 12th-century Islamic philosopher. The program is highly competitive and offers a unique opportunity for selected Saudi scholars to develop an independent academic career by acquiring experience at top international research universities. The fellowship provides an annual stipend for up to three years to assist these individuals in pursuing their postdoctoral studies. An annual research fund is also available for collaboration on research with a KAUST faculty member. Additional benefits include use of KAUST facilities when visiting Saudi Arabia, access to leadership skills development programs and invitations to relevant KAUST workshops. Mentorship is a core component of the program. Each fellow is assigned a KAUST mentor who supports them throughout their postdoctoral experience abroad and acts as a key point of contact with the university. As the fellow’s academic and career champion, the mentor guides the relationship to ensure progress is being made and any concerns are addressed. Meeting regularly, the mentor helps the fellow develop a research plan at their host institution, ensures that they remain connected with KAUST
scholars and other fellowship awardees, and provides general career and personal development advice. The Ibn Rushd Postdoctoral Fellowship program forms part of KAUST’s mission to diversify its faculty and double the number of Saudi scholars at the university, thereby creating the nation’s future leaders, thinkers and innovators. At the end of the fellowship, KAUST’s goal is to hire these highly experienced and well-trained scholars as junior faculty members. However, candidates will first have to pass through a comprehensive evaluation process conducted by KAUST faculty. A small cohort of scholars will be selected annually based on demonstrated ability and potential. Commenting on the role the program will play in developing Saudi talent, Amr S. Helmy, Professor of Photonics at the University of Toronto, said, “Promising upcoming stars can benefit immensely from international experience at the University of Toronto. This will serve to set scholars up to run a world-leading research group at KAUST.”
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Special Section: KAUST Entrepreneurship DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY “Being a part of KAUST, seeing the incredible entrepreneurs that have emerged, and witnessing what is happening in the Kingdom with NEOM and the discussion on renewables excites me.” Andrew Liveris, Former CEO and Chairman of Dow Chemical Company
ARAMCO “KAUST Entrepreneurship Adventures aligns well with Saudi Arabia’s needs. Entrepreneurship and innovation build the foundation for the future.” Amin Nasser, CEO of Aramco
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TRANSLATING RESEARCH INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP KAUST supports Saudi Arabia’s growing entrepreneurship ecosystem
put in place various initiatives and programs to help local entrepreneurs turn their big ideas into products and companies that can change the world.
Starting a business requires more than just good ideas. It takes careful planning and foresight, market knowledge, funding and ongoing support. KAUST has a long track record of supporting entrepreneurs at all stages, from ideation and launch, to funding, commercialization and beyond. Indeed, fostering local entrepreneurship is central to the university’s innovation mission, and is at the heart of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.
There is huge unmet demand for entrepreneurship education in the Kingdom, but access is often a challenge. To address this, last summer, KAUST hosted its first Massive Open Online Course, where more than 71,000 learners enrolled in the world’s first Arabic-language entrepreneurship course. Free and open to any aspiring entrepreneur, the course produced some 136 concrete startup ideas that seek to address a range of key economic areas, both in the Kingdom and further afield.
Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has been rapidly advancing, helping to lay the foundations of a digital, knowledge-based economy. In this new era of technology and sustainability, young entrepreneurs are leading the charge through innovative startups that address some of the world’s most pressing issues. The Kingdom is no exception: Saudi youth are also looking to shine as business and tech leaders. According to a recent survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, nearly 77% of Saudis are interested in starting a business – ranking second highest out of 49 countries. These budding entrepreneurs hold the key to tackling global issues of vital importance, from food security, sustainable technologies and the circular carbon economy, to smart infrastructure, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and materials design, among others. They will also be key drivers of job creation in the Kingdom. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the cornerstone of sustainable economies, and under Vision 2030 the Kingdom is aiming to increase the GDP contribution of SMEs to an ambitious 35%. KAUST supports the next generation of Saudi entrepreneurs and Saudibased businesses through education, funding, and access to the university’s world-class research facilities and faculty experts. To this end, KAUST has
TONY CHAN President of KAUST
KAUST’S MISSION TO PLANT THE SEEDS OF A DEEP-TECH ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM IS AT THE HEART OF THE KINGDOM’S 2030 GOALS. IN EDUCATING A BODY OF INTELLIGENT ENTREPRENEURS, WE CREATE A NETWORK OF STARTUPS, INVESTORS AND PARTNERS WHO ARE COMMITTED TO HELPING INNOVATIVE IDEAS SUCCEED.
For entrepreneurs who already have a bold, potentially game-changing idea but lack the means to turn it into a reality, KAUST’s six-month TAQADAM accelerator program can help them get off the ground. Co-hosted with Saudi British Bank, TAQADAM has supported more than 130 local, regional and global startups in the last six years with training, technical support, access to workspaces and over $10 million in funding. Commercialization is often the final and most significant hurdle entrepreneurs face. KAUST’s various impact-focused technology funding programs aim to accelerate the delivery of impactful technologies into innovative, market-ready products. Each year, KAUST invests $8 million in promising startups, and is putting in place a $200-million fund to accelerate their development. KAUST’s support for innovative entrepreneurs is reaping rewards. Startups that began as ideas in the minds of faculty have achieved remarkable success, winning major international awards and recognition, attracting millions in venture capital funding, and forging partnerships with government agencies to drive economic growth – achievements made alongside other,
OLAYAN FINANCING COMPANY “KAUST is especially well positioned to arm entrepreneurs with the skills they need to make a difference. Skills that will serve them well, not only in scientific fields, but also in any field or endeavor they choose to pursue.” Lubna Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee and Deputy Chair of Olayan Financing Company
more-established Saudi and global companies that relocated to the KAUST Research & Technology Park in search of an inspiring innovation ecosystem. The university’s work does not stop there. KAUST is expanding its entrepreneurship programs and facilities in order to accommodate the burgeoning demographic of young entrepreneurs in the Kingdom. Earlier this year, KAUST and the Suliman S. Olayan Foundation broke ground on campus for the construction of the Suliman S. Olayan Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. When completed, the institute will be the new home of KAUST’s award-winning Entrepreneurship Center programs as well as the university’s growing ecosystem of startups. In time, the Suliman S. Olayan Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will become the center of Saudi Arabia’s nascent deep-tech ecosystem, helping to nurture ideas and technologies into market-ready products that aim to provide world-changing solutions to global problems.
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TRAINING THE KINGDOM’S NEXT GENERATION OF ENTREPRENEURS
REUSING SAUDI ARABIA’S PRECIOUS WATER RESOURCES
KAUST hosts the world’s first online Arabic MOOC on entrepreneurship
KAUST professor partners with MODON for a new sustainable wastewater treatment process
Between July and October 2021, KAUST ran its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), titled Entrepreneurship Adventures and hosted on the global education platform edX.org. The program was a breakthrough in online learning and is the only entrepreneurship course delivered in Arabic on the platform. The program received wide acclaim, with 17,000 learners completing the virtual 10-week course. The MOOC generated a significant amount of early interest after the news of its launch was shared during a virtual event called “Who Will You Be?”, featuring inspirational youth stories and several industry experts, including Amin Nasser, CEO of Aramco; Lubna Olayan, Chair of Saudi British Bank and Deputy Chair of Olayan Financing Company; Kathy Pugh, Vice President of Content Strategy and Partner Success at edX; and Andrew Liveris, Former Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company. Within days, more than 71,000 learners – of which 81% were from Saudi Arabia – had registered, highlighting the popularity of entrepreneurship among the young local population. KAUST’s award-winning Entrepreneurship Center developed the course over a three-year period with the aim of equipping participants with the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, guiding students through the startup lifecycle and navigating the real-world scenarios entrepreneurs face when starting a business.
TONY CHAN President of KAUST
THE CONDITIONS FOR STARTUPS IN SAUDI ARABIA ARE INCREDIBLY FAVORABLE AND THERE IS HUGE DEMAND FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP EDUCATION IN THE KINGDOM. WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT THIS COURSE WILL HELP
In addition to KAUST lecturers, the masterclass featured a line-up of high-profile entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists who brought first-hand knowledge and expertise to the learning process. Experts included Mohammed Aldossary, an entrepreneur behind the rapid growth of the Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem; Amal Dokhan, a partner at 500 Startups; Faris AlRashed, Founder and Chairman of Derayah Ventures; and Maan Eshgi, a partner at VentureSouq. According to a post-course survey, 74% of participants felt the program had given them the confidence to join a startup team, and 60% of respondents expressed a desire to pursue entrepreneurship in the future. When the course concluded, 136 startup ideas were submitted, including solutions for parking, farming, therapies and queue management. Building on this initial success, the second Entrepreneurship Adventures MOOC started in January 2022. Offered for free and open to aspiring founders and anyone interested in turning their business ideas into reality, the Entrepreneurship Adventures course broke down traditional barriers to learning – namely, language, accessibility and cost. It is yet another example of KAUST’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs and driving economic impact through talent development in the Kingdom.
KAUST Professor Peiying Hong has developed a new innovative wastewater treatment method that uses less energy and renders water safe to use for agriculture. The technology is currently being piloted with industry partner MODON (Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones) in Jeddah. Water reuse is one of the objectives of Vision 2030. Saudi Arabia’s climate is extreme, and requires it to maximize and reuse its most precious resource – water. That includes wastewater. Increasing the use of treated wastewater reduces the need for desalinated water, which is costly to produce and very energyintensive, leading to higher CO2 emissions. Future urban environments around the world will need to be more sustainable and recycle water more efficiently to cope with a warmer climate and the water stress caused by growing populations. At present, most of Saudi Arabia’s treated wastewater is cleaned using an aerobic process. Oxygen is added to waste, which breaks down organic matter. Chlorine is then added to disinfect the waste. However, a major issue with aerobic treatment is that it is energy-intensive, and chlorine-treated water cannot be used for agricultural needs. Professor Hong’s new method uses an anaerobic process, employing anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) technology that uses microorganisms to convert organic carbon into methane. Water is then filtered and disinfected using UV light and hydrogen peroxide. The output is clean water suitable for growing crops. Earlier this year, Hong partnered with MODON to turn a prototype of the new technology into a pilot program for anaerobic wastewater treatment, which is currently operational at MODON’s site in Jeddah. The pilot plant will treat 23,000 liters of wastewater per day. The biomass produced by the system can also be used as agricultural fertilizer. The new system has a smaller site footprint than existing processing plants and is decentralized, which minimizes energy costs related to distribution and transport. The technology has the potential to be deployed as a commercially viable and innovative decentralized wastewater treatment system. By one estimate, AnMBR could produce about 15% of the country’s agricultural water needs. The technology could also be exported to other countries when it is proven. AnMBR is an example of a practical technology developed by KAUST, and the university’s ability to partner with major industrial players to implement technology at scale so it can be calibrated in real-world conditions.
FLOOD THE MARKET
“KAUST’s first course on edX is focused on democratizing education around
WITH NEW IDEAS AND
entrepreneurship with a course about entrepreneurship for Arabic speakers. It is
the first Arabic language course on edX that focuses on this topic.”
Kathy Pugh, Vice President of Content Strategy and Partner Success at edX
“The KAUST-MODON partnership supports small and medium-sized industrial enterprises across the Kingdom with new tech solutions for improving wastewater processes, bringing huge savings in energy consumption and treatment.” Ahmed M. Al-Hilayel, Health and Environment Director at MODON
KEVIN CULLEN Vice President for Innovation
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KAUST AND MODON IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF HOW UNIVERSITIES AND INDUSTRIAL PARTNERS CAN WORK TOGETHER TO SOLVE CHALLENGES AND IMPROVE EXISTING PROCESSES AND TECHNOLOGY.
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FEEDING THE FUTURE WITH SALTWATER-BASED CROPS Red Sea Farms attracts $18.5 million in investment following explosive growth
RYAN LEFERS CEO of Red Sea Farms
TO HAVE SUCH ESTEEMED INVESTORS BELIEVE IN OUR VISION IS HUGELY VALIDATING AND A TESTAMENT TO OUR BUSINESS MODEL AND STRATEGY. WE’RE EXCITED TO CONTINUE ON OUR MISSION TO ADDRESS THE RELIANCE ON FRESHWATER CONSUMPTION IN FOOD PRODUCTION AND IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY.
Red Sea Farms (RSF), a KAUST spinout agritech business whose one-of-a-kind technology enables the commercial farming of produce using primarily saltwater, received an $18.5-million venture capital investment in April 2022 from a group of leading Saudi, Middle Eastern and US investors. The latest investment, one of the region’s largest agritech investments to date, follows a successful $16.5-million funding round last year. Both funding rounds were oversubscribed, reflecting significant investor interest in RSF’s technology and in locally inspired sustainable farming solutions that address food insecurity in water-scarce regions. RSF’s recent funding success surpassed all expectations The drive was co-led by Wa’ed, the venture capital arm of Aramco, and the Savola Group, the foremost strategic investment holding group in MENA food and retail. The KAUST Innovation Fund, one of RSF’s original investors, also participated in the round, along with OlsonUbben, a US-based investment firm. Based at the KAUST Research & Technology Park, RSF was established relatively recently, in 2018, when KAUST Professor of Plant Science Mark Tester and Ryan Lefers, a KAUST agricultural engineering expert, realized they had a common interest in solving one of the region’s most pressing challenges: ensuring food security in water-scarce areas like Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East. With freshwater supplies under pressure globally, Tester and Lefers created an economically viable agricultural system for growing food with saltwater, rather than freshwater, as the primary input. Their proprietary technology, which brings together world-leading plant science, sustainable cooling, light and energy management, and artificial intelligence, reduces freshwater consumption by 85-90%. RSF’s
saltwater-based systems can be quickly and easily scaled in challenging climates where conventional farming methods are not possible or cost-effective. RSF initially sold tomatoes grown in its saltwater pilot greenhouse at the KAUST Research & Technology Park to local supermarkets. Its operations have expanded rapidly, however, and with the support of the KAUST Innovation Fund and other investors, it recently completed construction of a commercial-scale, 6-hectare technology retrofit site near Riyadh and an R&D facility on KAUST’s campus. The next step is to commercialize its technology across the region and globally. It plans to grow its fresh produce business in the GCC and support agricultural innovation in the region through partnerships with UAE-based agritechs, while also expanding its footprint in new markets such as North America. RSF remains committed to further developing sustainable food supply chains in the Kingdom. It recently signed an agreement with The Red Sea Development Company, the developer behind the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project, to build and operate a pilot indoor farm that will grow crops to feed guests and residents sustainably. RSF’s indoor farm will produce a diverse range of fresh leafy greens, herbs, vine crops, vegetables and fruit. Following the pilot, RSF will have the option of expanding the farm to up to 100 hectares, which would make it the largest sustainable farm of its kind in the world.
WA’ED “Red Sea Farms has developed a truly innovative and sustainable business model that not only addresses a global issue around food security and limited agricultural resources, but also is relevant for the region.” Fahad Alidi, Managing Director at Wa’ed
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EXPANDING SAUDI ARABIA’S INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM
BRINGING DEEP-TECH ENTREPRENEURS TO SAUDI ARABIA
Olayan and KAUST break ground on a new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute
KAUST spin-in program helps global startups scale and commercialize
OLAYAN FINANCING COMPANY “We believe that this institute is just the sort of Saudi-bred and Saudi-based initiative that we need at this time. It is a great collaboration between a private sector business and a premier educational institution.”
THE NEXT WEB “With this program, we leveraged our global network and KAUST’s unique
Lubna Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee and Deputy Chair of Olayan Financing Company
selling points to attract startup companies worldwide and support them with the business case to set up an office on campus. We are proud of the achievements made with KAUST in our first cohort.” Arno Nijhof, Director at TNW Programs
KEVIN CULLEN Vice President for Innovation
WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME THESE TALENTED INTERNATIONAL STARTUPS TO KAUST
In May 2022, KAUST wrapped up Destination Deep Tech, Saudi Arabia’s first program that spins in leading global startups to the Kingdom to develop deep-tech innovations. The international startups – Pasqal (France), Insignes-Labs (Poland), Proteinea (Egypt), CeEntek (Singapore) and Hopu (Spain) – were chosen to join the three-month program due to having highly advanced technologies that had already started to expand in the MENA region’s thriving market. KAUST’s ability to invest in and support diverse startups is driven by a determination to attract best-in-class global talent to energize the rich deep-tech startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. Particular focus is placed on startups with the resolve to address pressing issues facing society, like food scarcity, climate change and disease, and those that can support the Kingdom’s national impact initiatives and Vision 2030.
AND THE KINGDOM AS PART OF DESTINATION DEEP TECH. THIS NEW PROGRAM DEMONSTRATES KAUST’S COMMITMENT TO GROWING A STRONG ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM IN SAUDI ARABIA THAT ADDRESSES CHALLENGES AND SOLVES PROBLEMS FOR THE WORLD.
Destination Deep Tech was launched this year in partnership with The Next Web (TNW), an international organization that informs, inspires and connects the global tech ecosystem through media, events and innovation services. The program provides hand-picked, deep-tech startups with the tools they need to scale. This includes access to KAUST’s world-class research and development facilities, opportunities to collaborate with academia and industry connections, and office space at the KAUST Research & Technology Park. The final five startups achieved significant growth during the program and established collaborative partnerships with KAUST that will have an immediate impact across a wide range of economic sectors in the Kingdom. Pasqal, one of the program spin-ins and a leading quantum computing company, wants to establish a commercial presence in the region and will collaborate with KAUST’s Extreme Computing Research Center (ECRC). Insignes-Labs develops antimicrobial additives to protect a wide range of materials, and is currently running a pilot program with KAUST startup Red Sea Farms. Proteinea harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI), deep-learning models and biological automation for protein design and production, and will base itself at the KAUST Research & Technology Park. CeEntek delivers ultra-high-performance concrete for increased sustainability and efficiency of construction projects, and will work with KAUST partners. Lastly, Hopu provides AI-based internet-of-things devices for Industry 4.0 facilities and smart cities, and is set to deploy air quality sensors on the university’s campus in collaboration with KAUST Smart.
In February 2022, Lubna Olayan, Chair of the Executive Committee and Deputy Chair of Olayan Financing Company, and KAUST President Tony Chan broke ground with distinguished guests and community members on the Suliman S. Olayan Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a ceremony held at KAUST. Located on the university’s campus, the institute is named after the founder of the Olayan Group, the late business leader and luminary Suliman S. Olayan, and pays tribute to his philanthropic vision to contribute to a thriving Saudi Arabia and Arab world through innovation and sustainability. Nestled in the KAUST Research & Technology Park, the institute will harness the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment and its highly collaborative, interdisciplinary, goal-oriented research capabilities to act as an incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship. Fostering a collaborative environment for science, technology, industry, business and entrepreneurship, it will facilitate sustainable solutions for many of the problems society faces. “We cannot wait to see the many ways in which the up-and-coming young thinkers, innovators, movers and shakers will surpass our wildest dreams and leave their mark for a prosperous Saudi Arabia and a better world for all,” said Khaled Olayan of the Olayan Group. The institute has three components – Startup Scaling Spaces, Teaching and Learning Spaces, and Public and Shared Spaces – which are aimed at facilitating constructive conversations among students, scientists, industry partners and entrepreneurs. With a strong focus on sustainable solutions, it aims to attract the brightest minds and startups from Saudi Arabia and beyond working in areas such as water, energy engineering and management, electronics and communications, biotech, food and petrochemicals. This is the latest milestone in a growing partnership between KAUST and Olayan Financing Company, dating back to the university’s founding. Olayan is celebrating its 75th anniversary and honoring its founder’s legacy through a year-long campaign, “Ever Forward for Future Generations”. It plans to launch several initiatives in the areas of education, health, sustainability and culture, reflecting a vision and passion for creating long-term impact.
TONY CHAN President of KAUST
THIS INSTITUTE WILL BECOME THE CENTER OF SAUDI ARABIA’S NASCENT DEEP-TECH ECOSYSTEM AS IT NURTURES KAUST-DEVELOPED TECHNOLOGIES INTO MARKET-READY SOLUTIONS TO PREEMINENT GLOBAL CHALLENGES.
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DEVELOPING CLEANER FUEL-REFINING PROCESSES FOR INDUSTRY
WILLIAM ROBERTS Director of the Clean Combustion Research Center and President of uODS
THIS SPINOUT AND THE RESULTING MoU WITH LUBEREF IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF TRANSLATING THE FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH DONE IN OUR LABS WITH A TEAM OF INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATORS INTO A SCALABLE AND ECONOMICALLY VIABLE PROCESS TO MEET A CRITICAL REAL-WORLD NEED.
KAUST spinout uODS partners with Aramco-owned Luberef to reduce sulfur content in maritime fuels KAUST spinout uODS is partnering with Aramco-owned company Luberef to scale up a new technology to remove harmful sulfur from hydrocarbons. In April 2022, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with Luberef to support uODS in developing and deploying the technology, which grew out of the KAUST Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC). The project is set to help Saudi Arabia reduce emissions from the maritime transport segment. Luberef is a regional leader in the production of lubricant base oils. It operates refineries in Jeddah and Yanbu that produce around 1.2 million tons of base oils annually. uODS was formed by a team of researchers from the CCRC to commercialize a KAUST-developed desulfurization technology that brings both environmental and economic benefits. Rather than removing sulfur from exhaust, the uODS technology removes sulfur directly from fuel – a much more cost-effective and scalable method. Conventional methods use large quantities of hydrogen in a very-high-pressure, high-temperature environment to produce a sulfur extraction reaction, which is only feasible in a refinery. uODS’ novel process, however, can be achieved at room temperature and room pressure without the need for hydrogen. This means the process can be conducted outside a refinery, even at a bunkering facility. The uODS process is ideally suited for heavy fuel oils, marine fuels and base oils, rather than lighter oils like diesel or jet gasoline. The impetus for the project was born when the Ministry of Energy approached KAUST to inquire about any ongoing research that could help the Kingdom meet new emissions requirements introduced by the International Maritime
LUBEREF “We believe this technology has the potential to become pivotal in developing a more sustainable future for the oil industry, and the fact that it is being developed at KAUST gives us pride to be the first site to pilot the technology.” Tareq AlNuaim, President and CEO of Luberef
Organization (IMO) in 2020. The new regulations, known as IMO 2020, establish limits on sulfur content in fuel oil used to power merchant ships. Among the five key benefits of reducing sulfur oxide emissions from ships, as highlighted by IMO 2020, are: cleaner air, positive impacts on human health and the introduction of higher-quality fuels.
environmental excellence and ensure that oil has a more sustainable future,” said Mark Brown, CEO of uODS. There is also a strong business case for Luberef to partner with uODS to make its process more sustainable. The Aramco subsidiary produces a wide range of base oils used for lubricants. By removing the sulfur content, the value of its product increases.
The uODS process is built on basic research in sonochemistry pioneered at the CCRC. The uODS process core is in the ultrasonically induced cavitation. Sound waves propagate into the liquid, creating microscopic cavitation bubbles that eventually collapse, leading to high mixing and hot spots. ”We realized that fluid dynamics was the key to creating a commercially viable process. Modeling the entire process, from a single bubble to the whole reactor, enabled accurate control over the process and improved yield,” said Paolo Guida, Chief Technology Officer at uODS.
Full decarbonization of the marine transport segment will be extremely challenging to achieve in the short to medium term. Like aviation, shipping is considered one of the hard-to-decarbonize industries where net-zero solutions such as biofuel-, ammonia- and hydrogen-fueled ships are expected to be rolled out at scale in the longer term. The International Energy Agency estimates that under a rapid transition scenario of net zero by 2050, it would be possible for these three technologies to fuel 85% of maritime shipping’s energy needs. In the meantime, while the industry continues to rely on existing technology over the next few decades, uODS provides a viable transitional technology to help curb emissions in marine transport.
The MoU will help Luberef reduce its daily environmental footprint of burning 270 tons of high-sulfur heavy fuel oil at its refineries in Jeddah. The resulting emissions contain large quantities of sulfur oxides, which contribute to acid rain, nitrogen oxide and exhaust particulate matter. The KAUST startup will install its own rig on-site and start by test-producing 10 tons per day of desulfurized fuel as part of the agreement. “They’ll run it through their boilers and we’ll be able to measure emissions after stack, showing a reduction of harmful emissions by a factor of seven or more,” said William Roberts, President of uODS and Director of the CCRC. The goal is to scale up from there and provide Luberef with the volume of 270 tons that it requires on a daily basis. “Demonstrating the uODS technology at scale will be a major milestone achievement for the Kingdom’s efforts to drive the industry to achieve
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GROWING EARLY-STAGE ENTREPRENEURS INTO HIGH-POTENTIAL STARTUPS KAUST and SABB conclude another successful TAQADAM program TAQADAM graduates were the most diverse cohort to date, bringing together top startups from the Middle East and beyond that offer gamechanging innovations spanning financial technology, health technology, sustainability and more. It was also one of the largest groups yet, comprising 37 startups and 100 founders. Of these, 23 startups – eight from Saudi Arabia and 15 international – and 58 founders were invited to present at the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Showcase.
HATTAN AHMED Director of KAUST Entrepreneurship Center
SAUDI ARABIA IS WITNESSING UNPRECEDENTED ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTIVITIES AND TRANSACTIONS, AND THIS YEAR’S TAQADAM SHOWCASE WAS AN INCREDIBLE PREVIEW OF WHAT COMES NEXT. In March 2022, the fifth TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Showcase came to a close, capping another successful six-month entrepreneurial support program. Hosted by KAUST in partnership with Saudi British Bank (SABB), the program is one of the university’s most important innovation funding initiatives. Since 2016, TAQADAM has supported more than 130 local, regional and global startups, and awarded more than $10 million in nondilutive funding to startup founders. During the six-month accelerator program, startup teams learn the key elements of successful entrepreneurship, with workshops and sessions focused on product design, market fit, business model planning, team development and fundraising. The overall aim is to develop early-stage entrepreneurs into high-potential startups. Participants receive $40,000 in funding, plus access to co-working spaces across Saudi Arabia, a diverse international community, and a wide network of experts and mentors. The TAQADAM program has grown bigger and bolder each year, with an increasing number of graduates and a larger funding pool. The 2021
This year’s showcase theme, “Tomorrow, Harmonized”, spoke to the chaos in the global entrepreneurship landscape, and founders’ unmatched ability to turn that noise into meaningful, purposeful, high-potential innovation with the capacity to change the world. Following presentations by startup founders, the global judging panel, which included investors from Sukna Ventures, Falak Investment Hub and HALA Ventures, selected 10 startups to receive $100,000 in funding each. The winning companies were a diverse group of startups that have developed a range of innovative solutions to address global challenges. Among them were five Saudi-based startups, including NQOODLET, a Riyadh-based company that has developed a spending platform that provides instant issuance to multiple corporate cards for team members; Omniful, another Riyadh-based startup that offers a plug-and-play back-office solution that integrates with client software and utilizes existing resources to help retailers and dark stores ship orders faster; and local startup Osool, which provides property owners with tools to manage maintenance projects on a single cloud platform. Algerian, US, UK, Egyptian, UAE and Omani startups were among the other winners.
CREATING VALUE-ADDED SOLUTIONS FOR ORGANIC WASTE KAUST startup Polymeron wins $1-million sustainability award
“We are proud to continue our commitment to driving the future of Saudi – and global – entrepreneurship forward, and TAQADAM is one of the leading initiatives in this area.” Majed Najm, Deputy Managing Director of Corporate and Institutional Banking at SABB
“We’d like to congratulate Polymeron on winning this challenge. It is not just a win for them, but also a win for our communities and the planet. We are proud to play a part in enhancing the Kingdom’s march of innovation toward environmental excellence in the poultry value chain.” Zulfiqar Hamadani, CEO of Tanmiah Food Company
Polymeron, a 2020 graduate of the KAUST-Saudi British Bank TAQADAM accelerator program, was the winner of a $1-million sustainability prize awarded by the Omnipreneurship Sustainability Challenge for Inclusive Leadership. Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli awarded the prize at a ceremony in Riyadh in March 2022.
NOOR ZAOURI KAUST Alumna and Co-Founder of Polymeron
RECEIVING THIS RECOGNITION IS A GREAT MOTIVATOR FOR US. IT HAS GIVEN US A PUSH TO TAKE THIS TO MARKET AND RAISE FURTHER AWARENESS
TANMIAH FOOD COMPANY
IN SAUDI ARABIA ABOUT PLASTIC WASTE, AND HOW BIOPLASTIC SOLUTIONS
Tanmiah Food Company, a Saudi poultry processor and supplier, launched the challenge as part of a strategic plan to enhance its leadership role and provide innovative solutions for sustainable development in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy. The challenge invited proposals for solutions that would help process chicken farm waste in a cost-effective, commercially viable manner, with a view to generating a positive impact on the company, the broader environment in Saudi Arabia and, ultimately, the global ecosystem. It received 93 proposals, of which five were short-listed for the final. Two were Saudi companies, and the others were from China, South Korea and the US. Polymeron took home the grand prize for its proposed technology, which can make environmentally friendly biodegradable composite material from biochar, a waste byproduct of date palms. This innovative material addresses both plastic pollution and poultry waste, while at the same time enriching soil quality, which will help Tanmiah reduce its overall carbon footprint. Martin Ibarra, a doctoral student in bioscience at KAUST’s Computational Bioscience Research Center, co-founded Polymeron along with fellow KAUST PhD student Rodrigo Jimenez Sandoval and KAUST alumnus Noor Zaouri. Polymeron, one of 10 winners of the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator Showcase in 2020, went on to compete at the 2021 Entrepreneurship World Cup.
CAN HELP THE COUNTRY TRANSITION TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY.
Aided by the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the KAUST Research & Technology Park, where it is currently based, Polymeron has grown into a fully fledged company with a global footprint. It now produces 100% biodegradable polymeric materials using organic waste from the date industry, reducing plastic pollution and contributing to environmental protection.
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PRODUCING FOOD IN SPACE KAUST agritech startups join forces to win NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge Two KAUST agritech startups, Natufia and Edama, were among the 10 international winners of the first phase of NASA’s competitive Deep Space Food Challenge (DSFC), which concluded in November 2021. NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recognized a joint Natufia x Edama team for demonstrating excellence in helping to bring innovative food production technologies to space. Advancements in space technology are happening around the world, with innovators looking for new ways to expand the human space presence while also managing in-space resources. The DSFC forms part of “Grand Challenges”, a wider series of NASA competitions open to leading companies that offer solutions that solve space-related problems with novel capabilities. Given the importance of a healthy diet for astronauts in space, the DSFC called for new food production technologies that require minimal resources and generate limited waste to provide nutritious and tasty food for long-duration missions.
Based at the KAUST Research & Technology Park, Natufia and Edama saw an opportunity to apply their different areas of expertise to this challenge. Joining forces as partners in the competition, the duo’s proposed solution brings together advanced automated hydroponics, macroalgae farming and composting systems, seamlessly integrated into a low-maintenance, user-friendly, closed-loop food production ecosystem. The system focuses on efficiently recovering and reusing waste to maximize productivity and reduce dependence on external inputs. It can supply a diverse and nutritious menu of fruit, vegetables and algae-based dietary supplements. KEVIN CULLEN Vice President for Innovation
WE’RE DELIGHTED WITH THE SUCCESS OF THIS KAUST STARTUP COLLABORATION. THE PROGRESS OF NATUFIA AND EDAMA DEMONSTRATES THE STRONG ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM WE ARE BUILDING IN SAUDI ARABIA TO SOLVE PROBLEMS THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THE WHOLE WORLD.
Commenting on the competition’s importance to space exploration, James L. Reuter, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said, “NASA is excited to engage the public in developing technologies that could fuel our deep space explorers. Our approach to deep space human exploration is strengthened by new technological advances and diverse community input, such as that of Natufia x Edama.” Both startups have been working to solve food security issues in Saudi Arabia through the development of water-efficient and nutrientimproved cultivation. As the first company of its kind in Saudi Arabia, Edama specializes in organic waste-recycling solutions designed for municipalities and small-scale communities, aiming to transform the way waste is managed in the Kingdom. In 2018, it was one of six winners of KAUST’s TAQADAM Startup Accelerator – an achievement that led to the construction of its pilot composting facility.
“It’s an honor to have been selected by NASA,” Mitchell Morton, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Edama, said. “Their endorsement is an authoritative validation of our concept and a great source of motivation to drive us through the development process.”
A KAUST spin-in, Natufia is a multi-award-winning research lab specialized in hydroponic systems that provides unique proprietary technology that enables fresh plants and herbs to grow year-round. In 2021, the KAUST Innovation Fund invested $2 million in Natufia to help the company commercialize its fully automated kitchen garden, known as the “Nespresso for plants and herbs”. “This award from NASA is a big recognition of Natufia’s innovation,” Gregory Lu, Founder of Natufia, said. “Our proprietary and KAUSTdeveloped technology, in partnership with Edama, can address challenges from many industries. If Natufia can grow plants in space, it can grow them anywhere: at home, from the office or in restaurants.” Natufia and Edama are currently exploring funding avenues to allow them to participate in the second and third phases of the DSFC, as they have the expertise to go all the way in the competition. The second phase runs until March 2023, and participants will have to create and demonstrate a prototype of their proposed technology before a NASA-CSA panel. Up to three international entrants will then be selected alongside US companies to compete in the third and final phase. The ultimate winner will partner
with NASA to develop food production technologies that can support a crew of four astronauts on a three-year, round-trip exploration mission.
Natufia and Edama are examples of the top talent that KAUST has attracted and developed to energize the rich startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and solve global problems, including food sustainability. As the deep-tech heart of Saudi Arabia, KAUST continually seeks out collaboration and investment opportunities to innovate across the spectrum of climate, health and other pressing global issues.
NASA “These types of food systems could offer benefits on our home planet. Solutions from this challenge could enable new avenues for worldwide food production in resource-scarce regions and locations where disasters disrupt critical infrastructure.” Robyn Gatens, Director of the International Space Station Program at NASA
Credits EDITOR-IN-CHIEF David Keyes Senior Associate to the President for Strategic Partnerships and Global Branding EDITORIAL BOARD Najah Ashry Senior Associate to the President and Vice President for Strategic National Advancement Donal Bradley Vice President for Research Lawrence Carin Provost Kevin Cullen Vice President for Innovation MANAGING EDITORS Julie West Science Communications Specialist Naadiya Carrim Interim Director for Global Branding and Communications Salah Sindi Senior In-Kingdom Media Advisor
Produced in collaboration with Oxford Business Group
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