Chaired by French engineer Jean-Lou Chameau, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) boasts 900 graduates per year. It’s international, it’s on top of the innovation game, and it can be found by the sea, some 130 kilometers north of Jeddah.
Once inside KAUST, you may think you were in the USA. Religious laws are not applied within its perimeter. Of the 901 graduates per year, 633 are international students. “The first Saudi Arabian graduate was a woman,” reveals KAUST President Jean-Lou Chameau.
The engineer from Normandy had previously headed the California Institute of Technology, wished to bridge the gap between the worlds of academia and business: “A law firm is going to open up to accompany the 30 or so startups which were incubated by the university,” explains Mr. Chameau to French paper Les Echos.
A city within a city
KAUST is entirely independent. Its campus features its own streets, shopping malls and dorms with sports facilities: a city within a city. As the name also suggests, its campus is home to a community of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists.
All these elements join forces in order to make Jeddah the go-to tech city in Saudi Arabia: state support at the early stages, investments in research for developing innovation, and a worldwide city bringing together students from across the globe. Like San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, the Jeddah region is on its way to creating a startup haven, thanks to KAUST.