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A New Generation of

Arab Innovation

Penelope Shihab, a Jordanian businesswoman and Ph.D. student, helped create one of Jordan’s first biotech start-ups.

A test for hepatitis C. Skin-care products made from camel’s milk. A monitor that measures a swimmer’s heart beat.

They are all the work of a new crop of Arab researchers, inventors who have persevered against long odds to make their ideas a reality.

The innovations are emerging from a region with a rich scientific heritage: During the Middle Ages, the Arab world made significant discoveries in mathematics, astronomy, and physics. But in modern times it has fallen behind. A 2010 Unesco report described scientific research in the region as being in a "vegetative state." 

The Arab world as a whole is behind the United States and even developing economies like Brazil in the production of scientific papers and patents. For decades, investment in research and development by most governments was anemic. The authoritarian regimes, social upheaval, and conflicts that have plagued the region have slowed development of an environment conducive to innovation.

But today in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and other Arab countries, governments and universities are taking steps to spur scientific innovation, dedicating more funds to research and building links between academe and industry. 

Read more including how Penelope Shihab, the researcher behind hepatitis C. Skin-care products, got her start at the University of Missouri's Life Science Business Incubator at the Chronicle of Higher Education>>