Dr Peter Robbins guest lecture at PNU, Saudia Arabia

Innovation and Design Thinking in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

In the MENA region, and most particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the number of family businesses is significant. Family firms make up around 90% of the trading activities in the region. Saudi Arabia is characterised as highly family-oriented with businesses that are tribal, mercantile and nomadic. Diversification of income sources is one of the most important goals of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, and family businesses are one of the most important sources of income, representing 60% of the national economy

Vision 2030 is Saudi's ambitious roadmap for future prosperity.  Originally drafted in 2015, it is now halfway through and the progress is, by any measure, impressive. Vision 2030 envisages new skills, new industries and even new cities. The Government is soon to launch the second iteration - Vision 2040. One of the strategy pillars of the plan is the underpinning of a Thriving Economy.  Under this heading is the ambition to ensure that everyone acquires the skills they need to support entrepreneurship and innovation particularly in the family business context.  They say 'Our scholarship opportunities will be steered towards prestigious international universities and be awarded in the fields that serve our national priorities.'

It's in this context that the relationship between DCU and Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU), has been thriving for a decade now. PNU formerly Riyadh University for Women, is a public women's university in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is the largest women's university in the world. Students there take programmes in Business Administration, in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. 

Women already own and/or manage 40% -  45% of the micro businesses and SMEs in Saudi Arabia and the plan is to drive this even higher.  That's why this month DCU Associate Professor and expert in innovation, Dr Peter Robbins from DCU's Centre for Family Business, became the very first man to be invited to deliver a lecture series in person to the Business School students in PNU.

Speaking after the visit, Peter was highly impressed with the PNU students, saying they were engaged, informed, interested and showed enormous enthusiasm for innovation.  They could see, he said, a very clear role for themselves in bringing Vision 2040 to fruition.