'We look forward to the emergence of versatile networks between scientists from both sides, which can be translated later into active participation of young Kuwaiti researchers in AGYA, and in joint efforts to support scientific research between Kuwait and Germany in the framework of AGYA'. With this statement, H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Kuwait welcomed the AGYA members to their first Annual Conference in Kuwait.
To explore the potentials of the Kuwaiti innovation-driven research community, to exchange on areas of common interest with Kuwaiti scientists, and to intensify research cooperation – these are the reasons which made AGYA come to ‘the fortress by the sea’ as Kuwait literally means. From 22 – 25 April 2018, AGYA organized its Annual Conference at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, the Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) and member of the AGYA Advisory Board. The conference, held under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, attracted high-ranking guests from Germany and the Arab world.
On 22 April 2018, H.E. Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Kuwait, opened the conference in a festive ceremony at the National Library of Kuwait. During the ceremony, Mr. Frithjof Maennel, the State Undersecretary of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and Prof. Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS) and AGYA Advisory Board member, emphasized the importance of the strong and reliable research cooperation between Germany and the Arab world. AGYA Co-Presidents Prof. Dr. Ahmad El-Guindy and Dr. Jan Friesen as well as the AGYA Principal Investigator Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper thanked the Kuwaiti partners for their hospitality and expressed the enthusiasm of the AGYA members in cooperating with their research counterparts from Kuwait. The ceremony was also attended by H.E. the German Ambassador to Kuwait, Mr. Karl Bergner. Following the opening ceremony, the assembled AGYA members used the next three days to discuss their past joint research work and to lay the foundations for the AGYA activities in the coming months. Furthermore, the conference featured networking sessions with Kuwaiti research institutions and presentations from Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and Kuwait University. The AGYA Annual Conference was associated by thematic excursions and a public event with high-ranking experts from the region.
Beyond the ‘Ivory Tower’ of Academia
Innovative science communication can help providing a stronger understanding of cutting-edge research topics and, most importantly, of its wider relevance to society. This is why AGYA encourages its members to reach beyond the ‘ivory tower’ of academia and to communicate their research to the public and to discuss important research topics and innovative findings with stakeholders from politics and society. During the Annual Conference, AGYA members had the opportunity to exchange on policies and measures for education and research with Mr. Maennel, the State Undersecretary of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), as well as with H.E. Mr. Bergner, the German Ambassador to Kuwait. AGYA members explained how they benefit in their research and academic career from AGYA membership – be it in interdisciplinary research funding, networking in the framework of Arab-Arab and Arab-German cooperation or in the development of soft skills by tailormade trainings.
Moreover, during several networking sessions, AGYA members gained insights into the research conducted in Kuwait and exchanged about common research interests with KFAS as well as with researchers from the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and Kuwait University. AGYA members also had the chance to experience Kuwait from its historic, cultural, economic and scientific side. They visited the impressive Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jabir Oil and Gas Exhibition where they acquired insights into the history and future of Kuwait’s oil and gas production. AGYA members also explored the KFAS-run Kuwait Scientific Center which aims to engage the general public with science and research.
Kuwait - a Knowledge-based Fortress by the Water
Engaging society with science and research was also the aim of the first AGYA Science Outreach Slam in cooperation with KFAS at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) on 23 April. The event at the Gulf University was opened by its acting president Dr. Salah Al-Sharhan. Promoting awareness for science, technology and innovation throughout the community is a common goal that AGYA and KFAS share. ‘Kuwait is a fortress by the sea that is transforming into a fortress of science’, said AGYA Co-President Dr. Jan Friesen in his welcome address. ‘With the first AGYA Outreach Slam we want to reinforce society's interest in science’ explained AGYA Co-President Prof. Dr. Ahmad El-Guindy the aim of the evening event that promoted passionate and effective science communication. During the science slam, Kuwaiti researchers and AGYA members presented their outreach projects to a high-ranking Arab and German jury. The participants of the event could then vote on the most creative projects that engage society with science.
Prof. Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science (KFAS) and AGYA Advisory Board member, who had invited AGYA to come to Kuwait, concluded: ‘What makes AGYA so unique is that the members do not only pursue problem-oriented research but they also contribute to raising a new generation of science-thirsty citizens who aspire becoming scientists themselves’.