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Tech deal aims to improve UK-Saudi trade engagement

The new deal is intended to improve UK-Saudi collaboration in sectors such as space tech and life sciences Pexels/ThisIsEngineering
The new deal is intended to improve UK-Saudi collaboration in sectors such as space tech and life sciences
  • Deal focuses on science and tech
  • Will ‘drive collaborative efforts’
  • Trade worth $21.5bn in 2023

The UK and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on Monday aimed at elevating science and technology links and trade growth opportunities.

Officials said the deal will pave the way for the UK and Saudi Arabia to work together on deep science and technology breakthroughs that underpin progress in tackling challenges such as food security and clean energy.

Andrew Griffith, the UK’s science minister, signed the agreement during a visit to Riyadh. He said it offered an “enormous opportunity” for UK businesses to export their expertise to the kingdom to support the Vision 2030 reform programme.

Chris Innes-Hopkins, UK executive director of the Saudi British Joint Business Council, told AGBI that giga-projects such as Neom can act as a testing ground for new technologies.

“Hopefully the agreement will act as a prompt for UK institutions who have not yet engaged with Saudi to do so now in view of the opportunities,” he said.

Latest figures show trade between the UK and Saudi Arabia increased by nearly 18 percent to more than $21.5 billion in the year to the end of September 2023.

Of all UK exports to the kingdom, 61 percent were services. The value of services exports rose by 11 percent in the same period.

As part of the new deal, there are also plans for a series of meetings to bring together decision-makers from both countries’ research sectors, the first of which will take place later this year.

Griffith is in Saudi Arabia to attend Leap 2024, a global tech event known as the “Digital Davos”, as well as to meet leading figures from the kingdom’s research-intensive sectors such as space and life sciences.

“The UK has a huge amount to offer Saudi Arabia as a research and innovation partner,” said Griffith.

The UK is home to four of the world’s top 10 universities, and one of only three countries to boast a tech sector valued at more than $1 trillion.

Innes-Hopkins said the deal was “very welcome”, adding that there is a high level of interest from UK companies seeking to expand to Saudi Arabia.

He said focus areas include so-called “cleantech” – technology designed to reduce negative environmental impacts – which Saudi’s Public Investment Fund is prioritising.

The UK already has strong economic links with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation and Alfanar, for example, have committed to invest about $2.4 billion into decarbonisation and clean energy technology in Teesside. 

The UK and Saudi Arabia are also working together on the development of space-based solar power.

The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is also a founding partner of the Saudi UK Tech Hub established by Saudi British Joint Business Council in 2022 to help connect tech companies. 

Abdullah Alswaha, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, who also signed the agreement, said it will “drive collaborative efforts to harness innovation and address health, clean energy and climate change challenges”.

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