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Science minister strikes tech deal with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia tech
Image credit: ArtistDesignArt / Shutterstock

The UK has agreed to boost science, tech and R&D collaboration with Saudi Arabia following a visit by Science Minister Andrew Griffith to the Middle East country.

Griffith and Abdullah Alswaha, the chairman of the board of directors of the R&D and Innovation Authority, signed a memorandum of understanding in Riyadh this week.

The two nations have agreed to collaborate on deep tech research looking at issues including food security and clean energy.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on an ambitious journey to modernise its economy and harnessing the power of science and technology is central to that transformation,” said Griffith.

“Collaboration on a global scale is an essential part of realising the UK’s ambitions in science and innovation. The sheer scale of Saudi Arabia’s aspirations means this relationship will be a key part of our own hopes for science and tech, in the years to come.”

The agreement includes plans for regular meetings to discuss expanding business opportunities and sharing R&D efforts to develop new technologies.

Alswaha added: “This agreement will drive collaborative efforts to harness innovation and address health, clean energy, and climate change challenges.”

It comes shortly after Michelle Donelan, the tech secretary visited the United Arab Emirates to explore ways to collaborate in AI research and investment.

Saudi Arabia’s tech vision

The latest tech agreement is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the country’s economy beyond its historical reliance on the oil industry.

It will serve as a “roadmap for economic diversification, global engagement, and enhanced quality of life”, according to the Vision 2030 website.

However, the Vision 2030 plan has faced accusations that it is attempting to draw focus away from the country’s numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

The UK government has faced criticism in the past over its various trade agreements with Saudi Arabia, including arms and fossil fuel deals, due to its record on human rights.