On October 24, 2017, the Kingdom announced NEOM, a major new economic development with a mission emanating from Vision 2030 “to thrive the transformation of the Kingdom into a leading global hub”. Situated in Northwestern Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea, NEOM is strategically located to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa. Its location is enhanced by a temperate climate surrounded by an environment that is both pristine and diverse, ranging from a coastline of beaches and coral reefs to mountains.

NEOM aspires to be a global role model for future development. In a region with limited existing infrastructure, there is a historic opportunity to reimagine the design of essential energy, water, food, and mobility infrastructure, as well as the provision of societal services of healthcare, education, and leisure, all in support of exemplary efficiency and livability. Furthermore, environmental stewardship is an essential aspect of NEOM’s vision. NEOM plans to be solely powered by renewable energy while operating under the highest standards of sustainability with clean and efficient energy consumption in order to preserve the pristine nature of NEOM’s marine, coastal, and inland environment.

These grand ambitions will require not only diligent master planning but also a readiness to relentlessly pursue and incorporate innovative and disruptive solutions. In recognition of the essential role of science and technology to achieve this vision, KAUST and NEOM announced on March 20, 2018, the establishment of the Center of Excellence (CoE) for NEOM Research at KAUST, a cooperative effort of “developing and establishing a world-class research and educational center” that will “search for solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time”. Indeed, many of the challenges facing NEOM go beyond NEOM’s boundaries and coincide with global challenges of our future.


The research vision of the CoE is to advance science and technology in areas inspired by and relevant to the NEOM vision. While KAUST has had a standing tradition of research centers, the Center of Excellence is unique in that it is outward facing. That is, the CoE is not defined by a specific unifying research field, but rather by the multi-domain challenges faced by NEOM. Accordingly, the CoE ventures into new research directions at KAUST, drawing upon expertise and capabilities that cut across KAUST’s divisions and centers to enable solutions to problems that necessitate multidisciplinary perspectives. This research is enhanced by its association with NEOM through the implied relevance to pressing global challenges and the potential for specific realized impact.


Given the range of challenges faced by NEOM and the diverse portfolio of relevant expertise at KAUST, the CoE mission is to facilitate and coordinate NEOM-KAUST engagements in support of NEOM strategic planning and execution. The CoE anticipates playing an important advisory role to support education and research, e.g., in the planned establishment of a university in NEOM. Another line of activity is to develop and transfer the next generation technologies for NEOM deployment. The administration of these activities may range from sponsored projects to consultancy agreements to innovation funding, with the details tailored to the specifics of the various engagements.

NEOM has defined 16 sectors that will drive its development: energy, water, mobility, biotech, food, manufacturing, media, technology and digital, tourism, sport, design and construction, services, health and well-being, education, livability, and finally entertainment, culture and fashion. Each of these sectors is challenged as both a provider for NEOM and an economic driver for GDP in the Kingdom, e.g., through local innovation, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing.

Many of these sectors are well aligned with KAUST’s traditional research thrust areas of food, water, energy, environment, and health along with the emerging thrust area of digital technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Given this alignment, the CoE is well positioned to enhance KAUST’s mission of research excellence and economic impact while supporting the realization of NEOM’s ambitious vision.

Prof. David L. Donoho, Department of Statistics, Stanford University
Tuesday, November 12, 15:00
- 16:00
Building 19, MOSTI Auditorium
Prof. David L. Donoho, Department of Statistics, Stanford University
Tuesday, November 12, 12:00
- 13:00
Building 9, Level 2, Hall 2, Room 2325