Why PIF investment in R&D is key to a thriving economy

Global Insights
20 February 2023 Riyadh, KSA
  • Research and development is helping “build the future,” says Majed Alassaf, Head of Consumer Goods and Retail Sector at PIF
  • The Halal Products Development Company and noon.com are among those spearheading innovation
  • Investments in R&D support the Vision 2030 aim to boost Saudi Arabia’s global competitiveness 
With Saudi Arabia’s ambitious transformation plan well underway, delivering on targets to diversify the economy and create new sectors rests heavily on boosting innovation and knowhow.
And so investment in research and development – often lagging in the Middle East and North Africa compared with more developed markets – is vital in meeting the Vision 2030 aim to make Saudi Arabia one of the top 10 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index.
Given its crucial role in driving Vision 2030, PIF’s five-year strategy has a notable focus on strengthening R&D in sectors as diverse as Automotive, Food & Agriculture, and Telecom, Media & Technology.
As Majed Alassaf – Head of PIF’s Consumer Goods and Retail Sector, Direct Investments – puts it: “By localizing and transforming R&D, we’re building the future for the next generation.”
One company doing just that is the Halal Products Development Company, which was launched by PIF in October and falls under Alassaf’s remit. The company aims to localize knowledge, technology and innovation across a wide range of products. This supports homegrown goods and services, and helps strengthen Saudi Arabia’s food security, sustainability and efficiency, said Alassaf. 
“The Halal Products Development Company focuses on supporting and localizing a lot of the Halal industry – whether it’s food, cosmetics or pharma – across the value chain,” he said.
Alassaf joined PIF Global Insights after enjoying a coffee from the PIF-owned Saudi Coffee Company – another company tasked with pushing the boundaries of R&D. 
“With the direction of HRH Crown Prince, Chairman of PIF, we were able to support the farmers in Jazan [a region of southwest Saudi Arabia],” said Alassaf. “We are establishing academies; we’re bringing R&D to Saudi Arabia. And we’re working with Saudi SMEs and companies, where today we have an end-to-end coffee value chain.”
Noon.com – another company in Alassaf’s sector – is also helping push innovation in Saudi Arabia. A leading online retailer, with 50% of its shares owned by PIF, noon.com has inspired advances in areas like last-mile delivery and digital payments. In 2022, it launched a quick-commerce service in Riyadh, Dubai and Cairo, delivering products to customers in as little as 15 minutes.
The company stands as further proof that R&D is an investment worth making: “We’re proud to see noon.com as one of the highest-growing ecommerce companies globally,” said Alassaf.