Qatar Foundation 2020: THE YEAR IN REVIEW


Connecting With The World

With the aim of moving progress toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals into a higher gear, the world came together in September to look at how the long-term sustainability and equality of the planet can be secured – and Qatar Foundation was part of this critical global conversation. 

In a series of virtual events, Qatar Foundation (QF) supported the United Nations’ 2020 Global Goals Week by inviting international experts to explore potential solutions to the greatest challenges our world is facing, in five areas: precision medicine, social progress, disruptive education, sustainability, and Artificial Intelligence. 

The sessions reflected QF’s role in enabling solution-focused dialogue, designed to point the way toward positive change, happen on a global level, and to providing platforms where innovative thinking is expressed as a catalyst for action – the kind of collective, tangible action required to shape a better world. 

From disruptive education and social development to precision medicine and Artificial Intelligence, QF lent its voice to a global call for the change and action needed to shape a sustainable future for the world – and formed new international ties of knowledge.

QF hosted 7 panel discussions for Global Goals Week


Identifying a purpose

Neither the approach taken to providing education for centuries nor the “quick fixes” employed to help education systems adapt to a rapidly changing world are working any more, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, told a QF Global Goals Week discussion on the future of learning. 

COVID-19 and Education: The Largest Disruption in the History of Education, saw experts and education advocates swap perspectives on whether the pandemic can pave the way for a true educational transformation.  

Warning that the world is “not even close to disrupting education to how it should look”, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind said: “Technology is not a fix for everything. Now, we are in a pandemic and we have to make do with what we have, so our reaction is to try to continue education by doing it online. But is that the ultimate for my children? Absolutely not. 

“Once we figure out what the true purpose of education is, a lot of the issues we face will be resolved.” 

Once we figure out what the true purpose of education is, a lot of the issues we face will be resolved

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani
Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation

Reflections on a challenge

Discussions, ideas, and shared experiences from education’s global frontline against the backdrop of COVID-10 were compiled in a new e-book produced by QF’s World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), and unveiled during a Global Goals Week event. 

The Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined e-book comprises 40 articles and essays written by education stakeholders – from former prime ministers and CEOs to school representatives and researchers – during the pandemic. “It represents real-time value as a documentary of reflections and responses to arguably the greatest education challenge in over a generation,” said Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of WISE. 

QF’s Global Goals Week sessions also focused on translating global sustainability goals into local classroom learning; education’s role in countering radicalization; and how Artificial Intelligence could help modify existing medicines to treat COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, on the eve of the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, experts told a worldwide audience in an event organized by QF’s Doha Debates that global institutions must undergo sweeping reform to effectively tackle the planet’s most daunting challenges – or be replaced. 

It represents real-time value as a documentary of reflections and responses to arguably the greatest education challenge in over a generation

Stavros N. Yiannouka

40 Perspectives on education were featured in WISE’s Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined e-book

In 2020, Doha Debates’ live debates were viewed 76m times


A relationship strengthened

As well as being a month for international dialogue, September also saw new international partnerships being forged by QF and its homegrown institute of higher education, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), at the latest in a series of annual meetings designed to strengthen ties between Qatar and the US. 

At the third U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Washington D.C., a partnership was announced between QF, Qatar Museums, and the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex. The two organizations will work together to build knowledge and skills around innovation and STEM education at K-12 level, and promote connections between sport and science through public engagement activities ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ 

QF and the Smithsonian Institute will also join their expertise to preserve heritage documents, explore opportunities for developing and delivering digital education, and look at forming new research collaborations focused on sustainability. 

QF’s partnership with the Smithsonian Institution will focus on:

  • K-12 innovation and STEM education
  • Sport and science
  • Heritage preservation
  • Digital education
  • Sustainability research

The knowledge bridge

Through a collaboration between QF and the US space agency NASA, also announced at the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, researchers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Earth Science Program and HBKU’s Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute will carry out a joint project to design a mission that probes under the sand dunes and ice sheets of some of the world’s driest places.  

The mission is intended to broaden understanding of aquifer systems – supporting Qatar’s water security goals – and unearth new knowledge about the effect of rising water levels due to melting polar ice caps. 

“For Qatar Foundation, partnerships and collaborations with the US are long-established, and immeasurably valued,” said Dr. Ahmad M. Hasnah, President of HBKU. 

“To continuously develop the education we offer, maximize the impact of the research and innovation we deliver, and foster cross-cultural understanding, Qatar Foundation and HBKU believe it is vital that we build bridges of collaboration, partnership, and knowledge exchange – benefiting each other by sharing with one another.” 

Qatar Foundation and HBKU believe it is vital that we build bridges of collaboration, partnership, and knowledge exchange – benefiting each other by sharing with one another

Dr. Ahmad M. Hasnah
President, Hamad Bin Khalifa University

2 Fulbright scholars will conduct research at HBKU through an agreement signed at the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue


Following a fresh path

A QF member joined the global race to find a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 in September, by working with an international research consortium. 

Together with researchers from Harvard Medical School and Tulane University School of Medicine in the US, Dr. Ussama M. Abdel-Motal, Staff Scientist at Sidra Medicine’s Human Genetics Department developed a humanized mouse model that mimics the human immune system’s reactions – creating an alternative, and more rapid, path for testing a vaccine. 

“We are excited at the prospect of what this research could mean in speeding up the safe process of finding a cure for the virus in human-like immune settings without harming humans,” said Dr. Abdel-Motal, with Dr. Stephen Braun of Tulane University of Medicine describing the model as “a powerful tool for rapidly assessing the human immune system and accelerating COVID-19 therapeutic testing.” 

We are excited at the prospect of what this research could mean in speeding up the safe process of finding a cure for the virus

Dr. Ussama M. Abdel-Motal
Staff Scientist, Sidra Medicine

Sidra Medicine has active research programs in:

  • Immunology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Precision Medicine
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Metabolism and Diabetes
  • Digital Health Sciences

Taking a starring role

Defying the challenges created by COVID-19 and showing that innovation never stops, QF’s Stars of Science returned for its 12th season of empowering Arab innovators to produce novel technologies that benefit lives in Qatar, throughout the Arab world, and across the globe. 

The innovation TV show is an edutainment-style illustration of how QF provides aspiring innovators with opportunities to turn their ideas into solutions, and cultivates Arab scientific talent. With Season 12 being filmed in the teeth of a global pandemic, contestants had to display not only ingenuity and technical skill, but also perseverance. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic posed great issues for Stars of Science and its contestants,” said Professor Fouad Mrad, one of the show’s three-member jury. “However, our participants demonstrated their resilience, adapting and continuing their work with scientific diligence.” 

As Stars of Science executive producer Viviane Zaccour explained: “We wanted to showcase the importance of being able to adapt to different conditions in entrepreneurship, so we set our sights on turning this challenge into an opportunity.” 

We set our sights on turning this challenge into an opportunity

Viviane Zaccour
Executive Producer, Stars of Science

Stars of Science has 147 alumni from 18 countries


A new beginning

A new academic year dawned at QF, and the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions enabled school students to start returning to classrooms, with stringent procedures and precautions being put in place to ensure their safety and wellbeing.  

New students at HBKU and QF’s partner universities were welcomed to Education City through virtual orientation programs, and enrolment records were broken at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Northwestern University in Qatar, and Texas A&M University at Qatar, which also ushered in its largest incoming class of Qatari students. 

Meanwhile, the engineering university announced a new virtual program to allow middle and high school students to learn how to design, build, program, and test robots, and develop their STEM skills, from their own homes 

QF’s support for students amid the COVID-19 crisis was demonstrated by its decision to allow those studying at Education City and living on campus to continue doing so over the summer, waiving their housing fees – regardless of whether they were able to fly back to their home country. 

10 Years on from its founding, Hamad Bin Khalifa University welcomed 360 new students of 48 nationalities

103 New Qatari students joined Texas A&M University at Qatar in 2020 – its largest number ever


Supporting scholars

A decade-and-a-half after being introduced to QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) through an information session, and 11 years after being a member of its initial graduating class, Dr. Haya Al-Noaimi was appointed as her alma mater’s first Postdoctoral Fellow. 

The fellowship program supports advanced research by Qatari nationals, and gives Dr. Al-Noaimi the opportunity to produce academic publications, refine her research interests, and widen her experience by working with students on research projects, while also building her academic and professional network within and beyond Qatar. 

According to Dr. Ahmad Dallal, dean of GU-Q: “Through this program, GU-Q hopes to support emerging Qatari scholars who are launching their academic careers, and who will go on to play crucial roles in ensuring that higher education investments in Qatar are sustainable, and drive further academic growth and development.” 

Through this program, GU-Q hopes to support emerging Qatari scholars who are launching their academic careers

Dr. Ahmad Dallal
Dean, Georgetown University in Qatar

GU-Q has 562 alumni


Excelling in Europe

And equine brilliance in Bruges and Bergamo led to Arabian horses from Al Shaqab enjoying a honor-laden September weekend in Europe. 

The QF member claimed 13 championship titles at the Bergamo International Horse Show in Italy; while at the Bruges 2020 Arabian Horse Show in Belgium, Kashef Al Shaqab – sired by the legendary world champion Marwan Al Shaqab – was crowned Gold Champion Junior Colt. 

It was only the second opportunity to shine on the international stage to come Al Shaqab’s way since the start of the pandemic, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani, Manager of the Al Shaqab Breeding and Show Department, said: “I am delighted with the prize-winning performances of our Arabian horses in Bergamo and Bruges. 

“They have continued to deliver at the highest level despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic – and, as always, they have proved their aristocratic lineage.” 

As always, they have proved their aristocratic lineage

Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Al Thani
Manager, Al Shaqab Breeding and Show Department

13 Titles were won by Al Shaqab at the Bergamo International Horse Show