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Two venture capital funds have been launched in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to encourage innovation in science and technology and establish knowledge-based industry in the Arab world.

Last week (18 August), the Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development launched the US$135 million ten-year venture capital fund to promote investment in science and technology in the Gulf region, with a special focus on development in Oman.

The fund aims to attract foreign high-tech firms and cutting-edge research facilities to the region, and support local small and medium technology-based enterprises, which make up 70 per cent of businesses in Oman.

Services will include access to finance for five years, access to information technology, electronics and energy, and mentoring for scientists and businessmen setting up businesses.

Earlier this month (5 August), the UAE-based Arab Science and Technology Foundation announced its plan to set up an US$15 million venture capital fund, to be launched at the Fifth Forum on Investing in Technology in Jordan on 12–13 December.

The fund will distribute around US$500,000 to science and technology start-ups over a seven-year period.

Zakaria Maamar, associate professor at the College of Information Technology at Zayed University, UAE, told SciDev.Net, "This is a major milestone in supporting businesses that aim to provide advanced solutions to real problems that the Arab society faces."

"These are extremely welcome moves. Much research ends up… as published papers with no thought of translation into products to improve society and build knowledge-based economies," Abdallah Daar, an Omani scientist at the University of Toronto, told SciDev.Net.

"What is needed is further strategic thinking and positioning, and mechanisms to converge [high quality research, entrepreneurship and venture capital]. With major funds now going into higher education and research and development, Oman and other countries in the Arab world are positioning themselves for a prosperous future not based solely on oil revenues," he added.