Science and Technology Cooperation Signing Ceremony United States - Saudi ArabiaClaudia A. McMurray, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Remarks at Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology Cooperation Signing Ceremony United States - Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
December 2, 2008
State Dept Photo/Dec 02, 2008/Saudi Arabia
The most prominent example of this cooperative tradition is the application of the geological and geophysical sciences that brought about the discovery of oil. Advanced technology and engineering was then applied to exploit these petroleum resources and bring them to market. These activities continue to be largely based on cooperation between public and private entities from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Let me mention some of our work:
Saudi Aramco is a champion of advanced scientific research and applications not only in the petroleum industry but also in other disciplines including health, agriculture, environmental protection, water management, and education -- to name a few. Joint cooperative programs have included technology transfer and capacity building by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Saudi Geological Survey, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Saudi Arabian Presidency for Meteorology and Environment, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture.
And, also very important, over the last 30 or more years, Saudi Arabia has sent thousands of students to the United States to acquire advanced degrees in the sciences. Individual scientists have also enjoyed many years of close cooperation through joint research and exchange of knowledge at conferences and symposia.
I had the personal pleasure of attending one of these conferences. I witnessed the full and helpful participation of the Saudi Arabian delegation to the 2007 Kuwait Conference of Women Leaders in Science, Technology, and Engineering. Saudi Arabia sent the third largest delegation to that conference. They were a very accomplished, committed, and engaging group of scientists.
There is strong interest by many United States and Saudi Arabian technical agencies to continue to develop new cooperative science and technology programs in the Kingdom. The United States Interagency Working Group for S&T cooperation with Saudi Arabia is composed of about 30 members, and continues to grow. Some key members of this working group have already met with Dr. Al-Khairy during one of his visits to Washington to discuss opportunities for future cooperation.
The Memorandum of Understanding that we sign today will permit greater agency-to-agency cooperation across the range of scientific and technological fields. It will build up the capabilities of Saudi research and development institutions in priority areas including S&T entrepreneurship, materials sciences, water purification, education methods, and other advances in agriculture, health, and biotechnology.
It will also facilitate our mutual efforts to develop national and regional capacities in monitoring and protecting the marine environment, studying and indentifying ways to mitigate negative aspects of climate change, and learning how to better conserve our energy resources.
We understand that the Saudi government S&T infrastructure is centered at the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology, which performs policy and management functions, as well as resource allocations for research and development through its subsidiary institutes. KACST initiated the S&T infrastructural development program in Saudi Arabia about 30 years ago.
The success of KACST leadership – in particular Muhammad al- Suwaiyel- advancing S&T activities in the country and region is evident in the significant decision by the Kingdom to implement a five-year program to upgrade its science and technology infrastructure.
Efforts will be centered on expanding government technical agencies and research institutes and on building up the educational system to focus more directly on science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or “STEM” -- at all levels. Further tangible evidence of the impressive commitment to apply science and technology for economic growth in Saudi Arabia and the region is the phenomenally rapid development of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology , or KAUST.
The United States looks forward to working with Saudi Arabia to build a closer relationship in science and technology cooperation in order to further the Kingdom’s ambitious five-year plan. We also anticipate that this joint agreement will benefit the United States by giving our scientists greater access to new research opportunities, our academic institutions the chance to form new partnerships with centers of learning in the Middle East, and our S&T business community with new ways to be more globally competitive.
The MOU that we sign today is intended to make it easier to implement ambitious plans to expand the number of Saudi citizens studying in STEM areas at U.S. universities. It will also facilitate the ability of KAUST and KACST to create partnerships and cooperative programs with universities, research institutions, trade associations, and professional societies in the United States.
In preparing for my visit here, our Embassy has informed me of the wonderful work that you have initiated during the first Earth Day project conducted earlier this year. I understand that you are making serious inroads into coastal cleanup and rejuvenating the once extensive mangrove estuaries that rimmed the Red Sea coastline. I applaud and encourage the continuation of this and other Red Sea environmental protection projects planned for implementation in 2009.
In advance of my trip our Director of the Office for Science and Technology Cooperation, Bruce Howard, met with concerned Saudi S&T officials to further refine the agenda for the first United States – Saudi Arabia Joint Committee Meeting -- or “JCM” -- on Science and Technology Cooperation. Our goal is to convene the inaugural meeting either in Riyadh or Washington in March 2009.
In addition to other issues, this JCM will aim to develop a strategic plan for bilateral science and technology cooperation, establish joint priorities for collaborative research, and promote greater engagement by academic and private sector entities in the commercialization of science, technology, and engineering.
The JCM will set the stage for our cooperative efforts for two years. We will then meet again, review progress, identify problems, and take advantage of opportunities. The many positive results and benefits of our joint scientific and technological cooperation will surely further strengthen our traditional ties of friendship, sharpen our shared vision for a better world, and sustain our determination to work together for the common good.