Qatar Foundation 2023: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Artificial Intelligence

In Qatar, we’re uniquely positioned to make the most of what AI has to offer. Our population is highly tech-savvy and our state-of-the-art RDI ecosystem and unique multiversity model means lots of fascinating collaborations between world-class universities and research centers.

Our unique position in education, government, and the private sector also fosters an effective research-to-startup pipeline that paves the way for commercial sustainability in AI as well.

This is what we’re aiming for with our work in AI:

  • Economic growth through the emergence of new fields and industries
  • Social progress through efficient governance, effective management of resources, improved discourse, and better understanding
  • Environmental sustainability through the proper understanding of natural systems and impact
  • Protection and promotion of cultural heritage through initiatives such as Arabic-language translation


Strengthening a Spiritual Journey

An edtech platform that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social networking technologies to engage children in prayer was among the innovations to secure funding that can help take it to the next level – thanks to QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). 

The university’s Innovation Center awarded five projects QAR100,000 as the first winners of its Entrepreneurship Program Fund, supporting innovations that also included an AI-based application to help cancer treatment centers address booking, scheduling, and workload issues; a revolutionary solar technology; a tool supporting sustainable food supply; and an online trading platform for green energy trading.  

“It’s fundamentally important to employ the best of what AI has to offer in strengthening our youth’s spiritual journey,” said Dr. David Yang, Associate Professor at HBKU’s College of Science and Engineering, whose interactive ISalati platform was awarded funding.  

It’s an honor to have been chosen for the award, and we look forward to collaborating with our industry partners to see it through.

Dr Sa’d Shannak
Scientist, Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, whose QOOT Qatar tool was among the Entrepreneurship Program Fund winners.
15 entrepreneurs participated in the first round of the Entrepreneurship Program Fund

Healthy Collaboration

Ways of deploying AI and machine learning in healthcare were explored through a collaboration between QF partner university Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) and Qatar University. 

The universities joined forces to investigate how machine learning algorithms and AI regimes can be used to improve health, with VCUarts Qatar’s Mathematical Data Science Lab working with QU researchers to develop a model allowing studies in this area to be carried out. 

And fellow QF partner university HEC Paris in Qatar was also collaborating, as it entered an agreement with Qatar’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology which will contribute to advancing the country’s digital transformation. 

“This is an important step on the way to benefiting from HEC Paris’ great experience and clear interest in supporting Qatar’s digital and technology industry agenda,” said Her Excellency Reem Mohammed Al Mansoori, the ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Society Development. 

VCUarts Qatar’s Mathematical Data Science Lab is one of 14 research laboratories and initiatives under its Institute for Creative Research

A Stage for Innovation

Innovations designed to help high school students identify and follow their career path, increase oil production efficiency, and connect architects and designers with the materials they need took the spotlight at QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) in March – as the winners of its latest Demo Day.  

The event saw the teams behind eight aspiring tech startups demonstrate the commercial viability of their solutions, and how they meet a market need, to a live audience of investors, students, industry experts, and fellow entrepreneurs. All the startups have been supported by QSTP’s XLR8 program.  

To mark International Women’s Day, QSTP also held a seminar aimed at guiding, empowering, and inspiring Qatari women to become entrepreneurs; as well as unveiling a new mentorship program for startups incubated at the park.  

And QSTP-supported dialectal speech technology company Kanari AI announced the launch of Fenek AI – the first platform to offer automatic transcription for all Arabic dialects and the English language when they are spoken in the same sentence.

40 teams participated in QSTP’s XLR8 program each year

QSTP is proud to actively play a role in fueling the passion of women to chase their entrepreneurial dreams, discover their capabilities, and achieve their ambitions.

Hayfa Al-Abdulla
Innovation Director, QSTP

A Green Campus

With the aim of advancing sustainability within the QF community, a QF partner university launched its EcoCampus initiative in April.  

Designed to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the Education City campus, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar’s (CMU-Q) EcoCampus initiative involves students, staff, and faculty members, focuses on food equity, climate change, and waste management, and will – in line with the integrated nature of QF’s ecosystem – create a roadmap for other universities at Education City to benefit from.

Learning from Experts

Meanwhile, a group of CMU-Q student researchers began exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence algorithms to program aerial robots to clean and inspect solar panels, so they can operate more efficiently in Qatar’s climate.  

The students have received scientific support from QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, whose Executive Director, Mark Vermeersch, said: “Our scientists and researchers take great pride in mentoring the next generation of innovators, researchers, and scientists, and we are delighted to provide CMU-Q students with the opportunity to learn from our experts and explore their own ideas.” 

Genuine change can stem from a single individual, and I believe students need to remember the impact they can make when working together as a community.

Faisal Al-Thani
CMU-Q student and EcoCampus initiative student leader

Insights Into the Future

He’s the man behind one of the world’s biggest advances in Artificial Intelligence – ChatGPT. And, in June, he was at QF’s Education City to share his views on the technology that has the potential to reshape our world with a Qatar audience.  

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, shed light on AI’s role in education, its risks, the inequity of AI technology among developing and developed countries, and what it may mean for the world in the future as the latest guest of QF’s Education City Speaker Series.  

“In the next decade, we are going to live through history in a way that we haven’t done in this world,” he said. “The socio-economic contract is going to change a lot. There is fear, for sure, but it is up to us to figure out how to do good.” 

Altman’s belief is that AI will lead to humans “operating at a higher level and quality”, saying that with previous technological developments such as computers, “people have been able to do more and better – I think that is what will happen with AI.” 


Technology, Transition, Tradition

Innovations and conversations based on Artificial Intelligence are being advanced at QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) – including a revolutionary system called EMMA.  

The AI-driven, QSTP-backed technology uses advanced algorithms and real-time data to manage the movement of aircraft, vehicles, and personnel at airports. Having first been deployed without AI at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, it moved into use at South Charleroi Airport in the Belgian capital Brussels.  

Through its ‘Meet the Expert’ series, in June QSTP also turned the spotlight on the role of AI in propelling the transition toward low-carbon economies, and showcased advanced AI applications for the Arabic language, as well as their benefits to businesses in Qatar.  

The series brings together local and international technology experts, industry leaders, academics, and researchers to discuss technology-based solutions and practices in areas of strategic importance to Qatar, with the aim of boosting innovation and entrepreneurship at a national level.

We must recognize that this technology comes with its own set of risks, and it is important that we manage these risks when adopting AI in industrial projects.

Dr. Ashraf Aboulnaga
Chief Scientist, Qatar Computing Research Institute, speaking at QSTP’s ‘Meet the Expert’ series

An Introduction to Tomorrow

Also in June, an Artificial Intelligence-focused program run by a QF partner university saw undergraduate students from universities within and beyond Qatar delve into the technology and how it may influence tomorrow. 

The program was part of Texas A&M University at Qatar’s (TAMUQ) Engineering Summer School – which encourages undergraduate students to pursue graduate and advanced degrees – and introduced participants to subjects such as machine learning and information theory, while also allowing them to participate in discussions on AI-related topics. 

Meanwhile, researchers from QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Computing Research Institute published research into the journey of AI over the past decade, in partnership with the UAE’s Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, the University of Oxford in the UK, and Saarland University in Germany.  

The research marked the 10th anniversary of the pioneering neural network AlexNet, and included an overview of the current status of AI, prevailing trends in the field of AI research, and insights into the socio-technical issues surrounding the technology.

We were able to learn about the applications of AI, and to understand how to effectively use AI.

Stavros Dimou
a student at the University of Thessaly in Greece, and a participant in TAMUQ’s Artificial Intelligence program
27 students from universities in Qatar and internationally participated in TAMUQ’s Artificial Intelligence program

Shining Bright

Since its launch in 2009, Stars of Science – QF’s innovation TV show – has inspired and enabled a generation of young Arabs with great ideas to contribute to the development of their communities, and the region.  

In September, the show – hosted at QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park – entered its 15th season, with seven contestants bidding to claim the Best Arab Innovator crown. And as it reached this milestone, Stars of Science alumni from the past decade-and-a-half reflected on how it set them on the path to making their mark in fields ranging from Artificial Intelligence to healthcare.  

Jordanian inventor Noraldin Al-Deri is among them. After taking second place in Stars of Science season 14, she opened Jordan’s first AI-powered early intervention center for autism. “Guided by passion, I empowered hearts and minds to embrace diversity, increasing awareness of autism and developmental disorders,” she said.  

“Through science, empathy, and innovation, we’re shaping a more inclusive world.” 

The Stars of Science alumni community spans 161 innovators from 18 countries

Of the innovations showcased on Stars of Science:

  • 60 have been in the consumer products category – with 15 finalists
  • 45 have been in robotics and AI – with 16 finalists
  • 37 have been biomedical technologies – with 14 finalists
  • 19 have been in sustainability – with 5 finalists

Technology That Wins

With an 80 percent success rate, the region’s first deep-learning based Artificial Intelligence model for predicting the results of football matches was unveiled by QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University. 

‘SoccerNet’ is the brainchild of the university’s College of Science and Engineering, and used analysis of player data from Qatar Stars League (QSL) matches to forecast the outcome of games. The team behind the model now hope to use it to support the development of QSL players and coaches.  

Meanwhile, QF partner university Northwestern University in Qatar student Abenezer Bekele developed an AI-based job aggregator to help QF students with loan repayment options; while QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park announced the launch of ViaVii Plus – a web-based booking management system developed by a startup incubated at the park, and designed to help the region’s travel and tourism companies create the best experience for visitors.  

And QF partner universities forged new partnerships, as HEC Paris in Qatar teamed up with delivery platform Snoonu – founded by a university alumnus – to collaborate on research programs, programs, and educational opportunities; while Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar entered an agreement with Qatar Red Crescent to support humanitarian and educational initiatives and programs. 

The proposed machine learning model will support players, coaching staff, and team management in Qatar to focus on specific performance metrics that may help them win football matches.

Dr. Tanvir Alam
Assistant Professor, College of Science and Engineering, HBKU

ViaVii – the QSTP-incubated startup behind ViaVii Plus – has provided authentic visitor experiences in the region to over 10,000 travelers


A Global Outlook

Focused on addressing the global challenges of governance, advancement, and peace, a new, independent, and multidisciplinary thinktank was inaugurated by QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) in October.  

The Global Institute for Strategic Research (GISR) – the inauguration of which was attended by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation – will pursue a greater understanding of the cultural, historic, political, and other drivers of global challenges, and examine issues of global governance, advancement, peace, and security in a holistic way.  

“Within the boundaries of HBKU and the QF ecosystem, we have a unique concentration of scholarship, talent, and innovation that will allow GISR to act as a catalyst to channel ideas and bridge the gap between research and policymaking,” said Dr. Sultan Barakat, Professor in Public Policy at HBKU’s College of Public Policy, and GISR’s Acting Director.  

The institute’s inauguration – which welcomed experts from global thinktanks and research centers – saw the launch of a joint report by GISR, Doha Forum, and the Stimson Center, outlining how carefully designed and responsible cyber-governance initiatives, including Artificial Intelligence regulation, and reinvigorated peacebuilding can benefit people and nations and contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

GISR reflects Qatar’s prominent place at a major geopolitical crossroads and its commitment to positively impacting and shaping debates on a multitude of global challenges facing humanity today.

Dr. Ahmad M. Hasnah
President of HBKU

Discussions at the launch of GISR focused on:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Energy transition
  • Sustaining peace in fragile states

A Shifting Landscape

The Middle East is becoming a gateway connecting the world as technology’s geographical landscape changes, the founder of one of the world’s largest tech conference told a Qatar audience in October as he became the latest expert to take to the Education City Speaker Series stage.  

Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of Web Summit – which came to Doha in February 2024 – told the talk, co-hosted with the Government Communications Office: “I think the biggest change over the next 10 years is that the shift in the world is clearly underway. That shift is, for the most part, towards China, but it means that many other places in the world – including the Middle East, and including Qatar – are becoming far more important.” 

The milestone 15th season of QF’s innovation TV show Stars of Science came to an end with Saudi Arabian robotics engineer Mohammed Abbas Albumijdad claiming the title of top Arab innovator with his invention of a crawler robot that can inspect vertical surfaces, such as skyscrapers, bridges, and dams, for cracks and faults. 

And fellow QF partner university Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar launched its Generative AI series, exploring aspects of Artificial Intelligence, with its first session looking into how ChatGPT. 

Around 2,500 people attended the 5 Education City Speaker Series events held in 2023

I will continue to combine my passion for robotics and engineering to create a safer and more sustainable future for construction projects across the world.

Mohammed Abbas Albumijdad
Stars of Science Series 15 winner

A Platform for Ideas

Artificial Intelligence could reshape our world – and in November, over 2,000 influential thought leaders, young innovators, and key decision-makers gathered at Qatar Foundation to explore how it might reshape the world of education.  

The 11th edition of the WISE Summit – organized by QF’s global education think tank WISE, and attended by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation – placed topics such as how to future-proof classrooms in the age of AI, building an inclusive and ethical AI landscape, and AI and digital sovereignty in the international educational spotlight.  

Young educational advocates and innovators led discussions on areas including personalized learning for students with disabilities and the cultural perspectives of Arabic learners in classrooms, while workshops with WISE partners provided students and teachers with immersive experiences of using cutting-edge AI tools and systems.  

And Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, awarded the prestigious WISE Prize for Education to Safeena Husain, Founder and Board Member of Educate Girls, which – through a precision targeting method that uses AI – has supported the learning of over 1.9 million girls in India. 

I want to ensure WISE is a platform for new ideas that keep pace with the changes taking place in the world, and the obstacles that education faces in certain countries for reasons of which we are all too aware.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser
Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, speaking at the opening of the 11th edition of the WISE Summit

Ethics, Inclusivity, and Engagement

During the summit, young learners assessed ethical practices for students using AI in their education, in a session led by QF’s Akhlaquna initiative.  

Among the speakers was Qatar University student Fatima Naqadan, whose startup focused on AI program development. “We must acknowledge that while AI technology offers numerous benefits, it also poses several ethical challenges,” she said, “so achieving a delicate equilibrium between advancing technological frontiers and maintaining our social and ethical obligations is essential.”  

Experts also discussed how AI can be used to augment human intelligence; AI’s role in the lives of persons with disabilities, in a session which saw the participation of blind and visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically impaired and neurodivergent members of society; and the opportunities that AI-driven disruption presents for education. 

And, as Husa Alangari, Assistant Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at Saudi Arabia’s Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, said: “If we really want to be able to have students and our future leaders implement and use AI effectively, we need to get them ready, engage and involve them in the process, and make sure that we have a holistic view of how learning is occurring, how they are developing their skills.”

In educational AI applications, we must ensure fairness and equity for all students, maintain transparency in how AI operates, and protect student privacy and data.

Farah Emad Al Zubi
Al Sailiyah Secondary Independent School student and Akhlaquna Award winner, speaking at the WISE Summit

Insights, Accolades, and Action

Insights gained from cutting-edge research in Qatar, the Middle East and North Africa region, Europe, the US, and the UK were shared at a QF-hosted symposium exploring Artificial Intelligence advances in fields such as aviation, education, and sports.  

HBKU’s Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) and Boeing jointly organized the eighth Machine Learning and Data Analytics Symposium at Education City, gathering researchers and industry experts to exchange knowledge on AI applications for, and the responsible use of the technology.  

Meanwhile, QCRI was honored with a King Salman Global Academy for the Arabic Language Award 2023 for its Arabic Language Team’s research into Natural Language Processing and the development and sharing of advanced technologies in this field.  

And quantum computing leader Xanadu entered a partnership with HBKU’s College of Science and Engineering to develop pathways that nurture a quantum-ready workforce for Qatar, through the Qatar Center for Quantum Computing, established within HBKU through a grant from the government of Qatar. 

Language is the soul of the people. As communications paradigms shift, it is critical to create effective Arabic language technologies for people in the Arab world and beyond.

Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid
Executive Director, Qatar Computing Research Institute

Amplifying Young Voices

Views and ideas on how to build a better world – all from the perspective of youth – were aired and shared in front of leaders from Qatar and around the world at QF in November, as it hosted the Doha Forum: Youth Edition 2023.  

Organized by QF-founded QatarDebate and held at GU-Q, the forum tackled global issues and topics including the war in Gaza, cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence and how to build a sustainable world for future generations, as well as the secrets and the importance of effective debating. Launched in 2018, it has become a focal point for young people to debate and pitch solutions on diverse challenges to decision-makers.  

“This Youth Edition has not only provided a platform for open dialogue and debate, but has also underscored the importance of fostering a culture of discussion among youth,” Mubarak Al Kuwari, Executive Director of the Permanent Committee for Organizing Conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the forum.  

“We believe in the transformative power of ideas and the impact that young minds can have in shaping the world.” 

When we live in societies where we are not directly suffering from oppression, we have a moral responsibility to lift the voice of the voiceless.

Reem Ali
Sudanese-American advocate and Doha Forum: Youth Edition 2023 speaker
Over 100 delegates from more than 75 countries attended the Doha Forum: Youth Edition 2023

The Heart of the Conversation

Leaders in policy from around the world converged on Qatar for the Doha Forum 2023 – and QF was at the heart of the conversation.  

As the forum – held under the theme ‘Building Shared Futures’ – unfolded, QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) Global Institute for Strategic Studies, with the Stimson Center, hosted two roundtable sessions focusing on innovative solutions for governing Artificial Intelligence and emerging cybertechnology, and regional solutions for peacebuilding.  

QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) convened panels exploring Palestinian political renewal and reimagining financial markets for humanitarian impact, while QF’s World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) held a session where health and government policy chiefs shared lessons on how to strengthen healthcare systems by drawing on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

And amid the genocide in Gaza, QF’s Doha Debates organized a townhall event examining which nations and actors should take the lead in dealing with the most challenging issues facing the world over the next decade, as new forces emerge and new alliances take shape. 

We want women to be the next leaders. If we have the world’s population on stage, the result is going to be a better one because it’s more inclusive.

Sawsan Chebli
foreign policy expert, speaking at the Doha Debates townhall during the Doha Forum 2023