Morocco boosts innovation

Published online 15 May 2011

Fatim Zahra Basrhir

The innovation cities should offer new opportunities to promising young researchers in Morocco
The innovation cities should offer new opportunities to promising young researchers in Morocco
Nature Middle East

Morocco has launched a project to build four science and technology hubs. These centres, dubbed innovation cities, form part of the Moroccan National Innovation Strategy, which aims to position the kingdom among the world's technology-producing states.

Three innovation cities will be built during 2011, in Fez, Marrakech and Rabat, and preparations are under way to launch a fourth one next year, in Casablanca, according to a statement made by Ahmed Reda Chami, the minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies in March, during the Second Conference on Innovation, held in Skhirat, Morocco. The government is also allocating an additional nearly US$65 million to support innovation and promote partnerships between businesses and universities.

"The innovation cities will support Moroccan researchers, inventors and producers and facilitate cooperation between all these stakeholders," said Mohammed-Said Karrouk, a climatologist at the Hassan II University in Casablanca.

The innovation cities will include research centres and business incubators, which will help start-up companies to grow and develop. These hubs are being built in collaboration with universities in the four cities. The universities will provide technological and legal support for innovative projects and help them secure funding opportunities. They will also offer facilities to house the business incubators.

"We need to focus on innovative research that is practical and applicable on the ground," says Boumediane Tanouti, vice-president of Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, which has already started collaborating with Marrakech's developing innovation city. "The innovation cities are the missing link between academic research and the market's needs."

Projects at the innovation cities will provide a home to researchers from the universities, who will develop their ideas and implement their inventions through start-up companies. These inventors will be supported throughout the first few difficult years, until their products are mature enough to be introduced onto the market. They will receive legal and market support and additional staff will be given vocational training.

The collaborative model being developed in Marrakech will be expanded to the other hubs as they are rolled out, making good on the goals of the 2050 strategy to promote innovation by building infrastructure, developing skills and supporting talent.