Mobilizing Young Talent

June 2008

Mawhiba aims to foster a critical mass of young leaders in science and technology and to build up the national capacity for generating innovative ideas.  (Photo: Courtesy of the Mawhiba Foundation)
Mawhiba aims to foster a critical mass of young leaders in science and technology and to build up the national capacity for generating innovative ideas. (Photo: Courtesy of the Mawhiba Foundation)

As more organizations than ever joined the World Intellectual Property Day celebrations this year, WIPO Magazine took a look at two thriving organizations which share the goal of promoting innovation among talented young people.

Mawhiba Foundation, Saudi Arabia

“It is the duty of us all in the age of innovation to nurture giftedness and talents,” writes King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The King is the president of the recently established Mawhiba Foundation, also known as the King Abdulaziz and his Companions’ Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity.

The Mawhiba Foundation was set up in response to a series of challenges for Saudi Arabia identified in a 15-year national development strategy. Foremost among these were international competition for highly skilled personnel; the rising pre-eminence of knowledge-based industries in the global economy; the demands of an expanding youth population; and the country’s recent admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

On the basis that the future growth and prosperity of a nation depend on the talents of the next generation, the Mawhiba Foundation is developing comprehensive programs to nurture giftedness and creativity in young people. The aim is to foster a critical mass of young leaders in the field of science and technology and to build up the national capacity for generating innovative ideas.

Taking a holistic approach, the Foundation looks at cultivating not only intellectual talents, but also the personal qualities to enable young leaders to fulfill their potential. Among the initiatives highlighted by Mawhiba are:

  • Packed summer programs hosted by leading national and international universities.  
  • The Imagine Service – an electronic interface through which middle and high school students can submit ideas or projects for evaluation by experts in the relevant fields.
  • The Shawer Service – a specialized educational consultancy for gifted individuals, their parents and educators.
  • Competitions and scientific creativity awards, including financial awards, targeted at the under 25s, plus participation in international conferences and innovation exhibitions. In March, for example, the Mawhiba Foundation and the Saudi oil company Aramco sponsored the Ibtikar First Saudi Innovation Exhibition, under the slogan “Nurturing innovation to support prosperity.”(See Invention Awards in WIPO Magazine issue no. 2/2008).
  • A National Portal for giftedness, creativity and innovation, designed to link students, educators, innovators, government ministries and private institutions, and to provide an electronic gateway to a wealth of resources and interactive networks. 

It is not all work and no play. Together with the National Talent Training Center, the Mawhiba Foundation also fields teams of under 18s for the RoboCup – an international competition aimed at creating by the year 2050 autonomous humanoid robots capable of winning a football match against a human world championship team.

Young Inventors International, Canada

“Universities,” writes Anne Swift in Xconomy, “offer a thriving ecosystem that lends itself particularly well to entrepreneurship among students, faculty and staff.” Anne speaks from experience. While in her second year of political science and economics at Toronto University, Canada, she designed and patented a flexible keyboard. Struck by the number of different kinds of skills and knowledge involved in bringing a new idea to market, she resolved to create a community where students interested in commercializing a new technology could learn about the process and connect with one another and with experts. In 2001, while still at college, she founded Young Inventors International (YII).

Today, the non-profit organization has offices in Canada and the U.S. and counts more than 1,800 members from over 30 countries, including Australia, Croatia, U.K., India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and South Africa. Together they boast more than 500 patented or patent-pending technologies.

Anne Swift was named one of Glamour Magazine's "Top Ten college Women Who Will Change the World" (2003). She is currently consulting to a start-up in the solar thermal industry.

“Learning about innovation and about how to bring ideas to market teaches invaluable transferable professional skills,” says Anne, with the conviction which is her hallmark. “And YII believes there is no better time to bring your ideas to market than while a student.”

Geared to providing practical support, information and contacts, YII offers online seminars on topics such as intellectual property (IP), identifying market opportunities, producing prototypes and raising finance. These “webinars” are broadcast into university classrooms and clubs. YII has also organized international conferences at the University of Toronto and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a special panel of YII members on the Dow Jones Emerging Ventures Forum.

For World Intellectual Property Day 2008, YII hosted an online chat forum, where participants put their questions on patents, trademarks and copyright to IP lawyers. This was followed by an interview with young entrepreneur, Gauri Nanda, the inventor of Clocky - a furry alarm clock which rolls off the bedside table and hides when its snooze bar is pressed. Clocky became a surprise media hit after a blogger picked it up from Gauri’s class webpage and requests from inveterate snoozers began pouring in. Recordings of both events are available through the YII website.

Many YII members are already making their mark. Anne reels off the names: Jose Gomez-Marquez, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic is the co-inventor of Aerovax - a “last mile” measles vaccination delivered by aerosol. Gilad Shoham, an award-winning industrial designer and founder/CEO of Medonyx Inc. in Toronto, is working on products to reduce the spread of infection in hospitals. Rahul Shetty, a cardiac surgeon from India and founder of Mezocore Technologies, Canada, is developing medical training software that simulates medical and surgical procedures. Eric Groset of D&G Solutions, a student at California State University, has invented the LiveSpeakR, a patent-pending “boom box in your pocket” portable speaker system.

YII are keen to expand their membership in other countries. “If you are an aspiring innovator or entrepreneur - or someone who has gone through the process,” says Anne, “then we'd love you to be part of our dynamic international community.”


By Elizabeth March, WIPO Magazine Editorial Team.

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