The UK has struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to deepen research ties with the Middle Eastern country as it diversifies its economy away from oil.

The joint plan was unveiled at the LEAP 2024 conference in the capital city of Riyadh.

UK Science Minister Andrew Griffith and Abdullah Alswaha, Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology – also the chairman of the country’s Research Development and Innovation Authority – signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the plans.

The agreement paves the way for the UK and Saudi Arabia to work together on the deep science and tech breakthroughs that underpin progress, in tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, from food security to clean energy. 

There are also plans for a series of regular meetings, bringing together key decision-makers from both countries’ research sectors, the first of which will take place later this year.

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Innovations in science and technology form a key part of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’, the country’s plan to diversify its economy and continue social reforms.

“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. “This is a huge opportunity for UK businesses, scientists and researchers.

“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.”

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The UK already has strong and significant economic links with Saudi Arabia: SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) and Alfanar have committed to investing a combined total of £1.85 billion into decarbonisation and clean energy technology in Teesside.

Alswaha added: “We are proud to partner with the United Kingdom to advance science and technology and strengthen the research and development capabilities across both nations. This agreement will drive collaborative efforts to harness innovation and address health, clean energy, and climate change challenges.”

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