• Leonard Lerer
  • Brett Bowman



biotechnology, GCC, R&D, patents, UAE, Saudi Arabia


Despite substantial investment in healthcare, biomedical education and R&D facilities, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) face challenges in building an impactful and sustainable biotechnology sector. After providing an overview of the state of the region's biotechnology sector, we assess the impact, both real and potential, of such investment against innovation proxies including patent outputs, clinical trial registrations, bibliometric footprint, knowledge economy rank and global competitiveness. Our analysis indicates that resource allocation alone, be it in physical infrastructure (biotechnology ‘parks’ or large academic institutes) or incentives (such as subsidies, prizes and bringing in international experts on a short-term basis) will not drive the sector growth required to make the GCC a truly globally competitive biotechnology player. Although significant money has been committed by governments to the development of an R&D infrastructure, supporting agencies and institutions, patent registrations remain limited, manufacturing centres sparse and the region has yet to attract world-class industry leaders and intellectual capital. The GCC faces considerable structural challenges in building the requisite human capital and appropriate environments to foster innovation. These shortcomings will continue to curtail bioscience R&D efforts and the region will remain at the tail-end of biotechnology development unless the GCC's relatively uncoordinated capital outlays are more strategically harnessed. We provide some proposals concerning best practice aimed at the development of a thriving and sustainable sector in the GCC that is more valuable than the sum of its parts.