British Ambassador to Lebanon HE Hugo Shorter announces £2.5 million for a new international research centre in Lebanon
British Ambassador to Lebanon HE Hugo Shorter today announced £2.5 million towards a new International Research Centre (IRC) in Lebanon. British Ambassador was speaking live at the ArabNet Beirut conference, attended and patronaged by H.E. President General Michel Aoun.
The International Research Centre will act as the bridge between the abundant knowledge capability in Lebanese universities and the global tech industry, partnered with GREAT British Universities. It aims to position Lebanon as the Middle East’s R&D hub, acting as a catalyst for economic growth, stability and job creation and a gateway between east and west.
The IRC will serve as a portal for multinational and local companies of all sizes to undertake research and develop new solutions in these areas through a collaborative environment where commercial gain can be achieved for all.
The IRC’s first project, a collaboration between the Lebanese University and the Geneva-based CERN European Laboratory for Particle Physics, amongst others, is already underway. The collaboration aims to produce the world’s first Fiber Optic Sensors System designed to measure parameters such as temperature, humidity, concentration of pesticides, fertilizers and enzymes in the soil of cultivated fields. This will empowers farmers by allowing irrigation that will result in water saving and increased crop yield, and cut the cost of watering farmer’s fields from $500 per hectare to under $80 per hectare
From the very beginning of the UK-Lebanon Tech Hub under two years ago, the British Embassy Beirut has been closely involved, providing the expertise, matched talents and helped Lebanese entrepreneurs expand their footprint in global markets through London and the British ecosystem. With new technological approaches to traditional sectors we can find innovative solutions to help bring people out of poverty, create a more inclusive society, and enable economic growth.
Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is developing fast, which is demonstrated by the Lebanon ICT sector’s eight per cent annual growth over the last five years and the expansion of the market to USD 400 Million by 2015, according to a recent report by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub. This has helped position Lebanon in the Top 20 entrepreneurial nations of the world in 2015 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). At the same time, Lebanon has many universities with dedicated research policies. Based on the most recent QS University Rankings, Lebanon had three universities in the top 20 universities of the Arab region, including the American University of Beirut which ranked in second place.
Hugo Shorter, the UK Ambassador to Lebanon, said:
“The Tech Hub is not about taking the most talented to global markets. It is about bringing global markets to them. It is about returning Lebanon to being the gateway to the MENA, a bridge between East and West as it always was. Lebanon’s people are its most coveted resource. This partnership, the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, is about harnessing the potential of that resource. This partnership is about creating 25,000 jobs in Lebanon by 2025’ The UK is not just supporting Lebanon’s security and stability, but it’s leading the way in investing in Lebanon’s prosperity too.”
Nicolas Sehnaoui, Chairman of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, said:
“Lebanon’s real strength is in its brain power, reflected in its world-class education and its stellar diaspora. The hub’s R&D centre will bridge Lebanon’s academic strengths and knowledge capabilities with the global industry. Retaining our best talent is a game changer for our economy. Investing in our talents will harness their enormous potential to turn Lebanon into a globally recognized innovation hub all while creating jobs for our youth. ”
The International Research Centre is a key recommendation of the recent flagship report by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, which outlines a plan to create 25,000 jobs by 2025. The report’s findings followed the examination of Lebanon’s knowledge economy, mapping its strengths and weaknesses, assessing global trends, and comparing its ecosystem development experiences with countries of a similar profile.
LEBANON SETS OUT AMBITION TO BECOME TECH GATEWAY TO MIDDLE EAST
New report backed by Banque du Liban outlines creation of 25,000 new ICT jobs and a US $7 billion boost to GDP by 2025
A new flagship report by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, the joint international initiative by the Banque Du Liban (Lebanon’s Central Bank) and the UK government, has been released today and positions Lebanon to become the tech gateway to the Middle East. It highlights Lebanon’s huge growth potential in FinTech, well being (healthcare, fitness, and food lifestyle products) and online retail, and outlines a plan to create 25,000 ICT jobs by 2025.
The new report’s findings followed the examination of 339 ICT companies in Lebanon and are based on a mapping of strengths and weaknesses of the local knowledge economy, an assessment of global trends, and a comparison of ecosystem development experiences with countries of a similar profile.
The report acknowledges the Banque Du Liban’s (BDL) considerable funding and support, particularly through its 331 initiative, which made available $400 million to encourage banks to invest in the knowledge economy through direct investments or venture capital funds. Under the scheme, the Lebanese Central Bank guarantees 75 per cent of investments made by commercial banks.
This initiative, amongst others, has boosted Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is demonstrated by the country’s ICT sector growing by eight per cent annually over the last five years and the market reaching USD 400 Million by 2015. This has helped position Lebanon in the Top 20 entrepreneurial nations of the world in 2015 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor).
Interestingly, the report, which compares Lebanon to Estonia, Latvia, Northern Ireland and Israel in terms of the time taken to transform a knowledge economy into a more developed, innovation-harnessing and exporting economy, has identified three distinct flagship sectors for growth. These are FinTech, well being (healthcare, fitness, and food lifestyle products) and creative visualization in retail. The three flagship sectors, the report states, are to be enabled by three core technological capabilities: 1. Software as a service (SAAS), 2. Internet of Things (IoT) and 3. Digital Technologies.
The report recommends that Lebanon focus its human resources, investments and knowledge production capabilities around these three flagship sectors. This, the report says, will then catapult Lebanon into the Top 10 entrepreneurial countries worldwide and so create 25,000 new jobs by 2025.
The growth in the knowledge economy in Lebanon would increase the number of employees directly related to the sector by 15% and a further 5% increase in the wider economy. Together with spill over effects, this would then contribute an additional USD 7 billion to Lebanon’s GDP by 2025.
The report finds Lebanon is well poised to become a regional FinTech hub for the MENA region. The total assets of Lebanese banks now exceed USD $175 billion and they have been able to meet international standards by working with several successful FinTech companies. For example, Bluering is a Lebanese FinTech company offering credit risk management solutions to commercial banks and lending institutions, fully managing the credit decision cycle, enhancing analysis and processing time. A market leader in the Levant, it has sold its products to a number of banks such as Bank Audi, BLF, Bank of Jordan, and IB
In reference to the growing Lebanese HealthTech scene, the report highlights that the Wellbeing sector in the Middle East and Africa is expected to have the most rapid growth, at an estimated annual average increase of 8.7 per cent over 2014- 2018; an opportunity for the realization and adoption of local solutions to solve local problems. For example, CardioDiagnostics, a medical technology startup from Beirut, that was recently invited to the White House and praised by President Barack Obama, is the world’s first Cloud Based Cardiac Monitoring Solution accessible from any internet-connected device. It is a wearable heart monitor that checks the electrical activity of the heart, detects abnormalities and alerts the hospital or physician who can evaluate and respond accordingly in case of emergency.
The report also highlights the huge opportunity for Lebanon to be at the forefront of how retail industries are reimagining consumers’ shopping experiences via new channels of purchasing. The global e-commerce market is expected to reach USD $1.5 trillion in 2018, with the MENA demonstrating the highest growth potential. At the same time, the percentage of Lebanon’s internet users who purchase online is expected to increase, with a massive 20 per cent growth rate over the next five to seven years. Indeed, this is the highest growth rate worldwide.
Highlighting the current regional instabilities, the report recognizes the limitations facing the key stakeholders actively engaged in supporting Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It therefore proposes two key demand-and supply-side interventions to accelerate the growth in these flagship sectors.
(1) An international research and development hub that would act as a host for Lebanese startups, incubators and entrepreneurial initiatives, alongside multinationals, mid-sized companies, as well as students. It would offer free access to data, research material, and technical support and advisory. It would be a leader in research and would also offer support to other research institutes.
(2) A national resource centre that would encourage foreign investment into Lebanon, in a non-traditional way, servicing a global demand that remains unmatched by sufficient supply.