November 16th, 2012
04:30 PM ET

Can Middle East beat its brain drain?

By Nicole Dow, CNN

Hayat Sindi is co-founder of Diagnostics for All and founder of the i2 institute, which is launching in Jeddah today. The views, expressed in a recent interview with Dow, are her own.

How did the idea for the i2Institute come about?

It mainly came from my journey, my experiences. All of my life, I’ve been trying to answer this question – through my journey, throughout my studies, my profession – what can I bring back to the region? How can I help the most talented inventors from the Middle East in the area of science, engineering…have the right atmosphere to be able to see their idea and show it to the community? What does it take? What does it take in terms of their education? What skills do they need to have? What information do they need to know? What action should they take? How can they approach investors? How do they understand a business model?

There is no right recipe [for entrepreneurship], no right program, no right instruction on how you can create an entrepreneur from that area. It can only happen by construction and working together and being hands-on.

There’s growing concern over a brain drain affecting the Middle East. Why is no one capitalizing on the young talent in the region? And why do you think so many young people tend not stay in their home countries to work?

[T]hey don’t have the belief in the talent of the youth. I don’t think they have in their heart, belief in their talent. If you do not have the belief inside you, nothing happens.

Brain drain affects every society…I left home [Saudi Arabia] at a young age because I wanted to make a difference in the world. And all my inventions relate to the Middle East somehow. I hope to find people who are like me, who understand, who are passionate about their own regions and who can open their hearts and minds to something like i2. Support it, encourage it, celebrate it. We are trying to figure out the right formula.

This is a purely non-governmental organization. No strings attached. The whole reason why I wanted it to be an NGO is for three reasons:

- The relationship between i2 and inventors is to be purely devoted to their personalities, to bring out their talents

- We are not going to choose inventors based on how they will make a profit for i2. Not looking for profit here. [We are] looking for talents that will have a social impact and a regional impact.

-  To make it easy for the investors not to have nightmares sleeping, worrying about who is doing what.

I want all of the community to have an open mind about i2. We are going to collaborate with all of the universities, research funds, incubators. We are going to give the right education, the right program for inventors to meet their potential partners in the region.

What makes i2 unique in the Middle East?

We are the first NGO that is trying to set-up an ecosystem for science and technology in the Middle East. We want to set an example of creating something from nothing. I hope i2 is a blueprint for collaboration. In Arabic, we have a saying, “You cannot clap with one hand.”

Most people in the Middle East feel science is out of reach. They do not believe they are capable or have the talent. The blueprint for i2 is creating the right ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation. I want the atmosphere to be contagious [and to] engage universities, governments, civic organizations. Create an atmosphere of inspiration, determination, purpose and harmony.

How will i2 work with entrepreneurs and inventors?

There will be mentors assigned to each fellow. Mentoring is key – a friend, someone who inspires you. They will be taught business, management, leadership, communication and resilience skills. [They will be taught] how to create a marketing strategy, how to write a business proposal. This is unique, customized for the Middle East. We want it to be realistic and focused.

At the end of the year, each inventor will present his or her work to investors, and must make it interesting to investors who will see a solid return. We then match them with investors who will invest in their ideas

They will learn [what it takes] to create a start-up in the Middle East. What does it take to register an invention? And who do you go to for financial support? [We] don’t want them to live in a dream world. The message is that your idea is not about you. You have to understand what it takes. The dreamer also needs to be a doer.

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Topics: Economy • Middle East

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. deniz boro

    I wish you luck in your odysseus Hayat. Creativity, innovation and invention comes from the same root. And the seed that lays those roots need favourable soil to prosper in. The Muslim religion has those grounds to encourage a sappling. Just as it took ground in Endulus in Middle Ages or Alexandria in BC. However, I am afraid you will only end up in training more people for that brain-drain-train in the long run.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  2. JAL

    The collusium mindset is allied with poverty.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  3. deniz boro

    Freedom of thought calles for seeking answers to questions. Doing, undoing, creating and demolishing, and redoing... This is generally taken as an unacceptabel behavior in an unsecure society. However, these people with talents valuable to be stealed can not perform in such a restricted society. Creativity and intelligence comes with additional genes (as historically proved) that may cause these people to be ostricised such as bipolarity, addiction and alcholism. In short I do not think you can beat the city wall and talented people are better off away from those grounds if they have any value for humanity in general.

    November 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  4. deniz boro
    States may be different but people are the same.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Reply
  5. allthingsgeography1

    Reblogged this on All Things Geography and commented:
    Add your thoughts here... (optional)

    November 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  6. vonrock

    Give me money....give me time........ 'Do You see what's being stirred up by Kickstart ?

    November 17, 2012 at 12:53 am | Reply
  7. j. von hettlingen

    It will come as no surprise that the Middle East suffers a brain drain. A sharp mind has to be free from restrictions of thoughts and idees. The political Islam in the Middle East does not embrace the freedom of belief and speech.

    November 18, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      Brain drain is caused by economic reasons. Compare Spain and Greece to China and Russia in brain drain.
      Should countries respect freedoms of belief and speech? Yes, of course! But, the most significant factor to immigration is economic, not political.

      November 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Brain drain doesn't necessary have to be driven by economic motives. Some bright artists and scientists can't stay in their countries, because of restrictions of freedoms.

        November 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • deniz boro

      Do not lean such a macro-aproach. Gifted individuals always find a way. The problem with "problemmed countries" is that they rely on foreigners from developed coutries rather than have the confidance in their inbread people. The second best is always those who spend some time in the developed countries. I guess this is just a lack of self confidence in the people of the land.
      This is almost too similar in corporations who want to make a leap but lacking the guts, trust the reins in somebody who is successful on the tabloid.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
  8. deniz boro

    However, it will surely easa off

    November 19, 2012 at 7:21 am | Reply
  9. Hahahahhahaha

    What brain???????? Hahahahahahahahah

    November 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply

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