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Remarks by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani at the Kurdistan Innovation Institute

Remarks by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani at the Kurdistan Innovation Institute

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests,

Today marks the 238 anniversary of the founding of our beloved Slemani city. I congratulate its people and Kurdistanis as a whole. The city’s role in our nation’s struggle is clear. This city – of sacrifice and the cultural capital – deserves the best of services. I hope that with the support of the public, we can address the city’s concerns without resorting to political meddling or authoritarianism. We must allow the rule of law to facilitate solutions and fulfill the true development of one of great cities.

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today on an occasion that is both central to my government’s goals and dear to me personally. The Kurdistan Innovation Institute that we are launching here is at the apex of our vision for what Kurdistan can and should be.

Since being sworn in as Prime Minister over three years ago, one of my primary goals has been to find ways to unlock the potential of our people, particularly our youth.

Almost all of my interactions since, whether it be with young Kurds about to begin their journeys, their proud families seeking ways to support them, or other citizens doing their bit in society, have reaffirmed both the need to offer tangible ways to back you and my determination to deliver.

Today is a milestone in our collective growth; as we unveil a center that will be integral to the development of our youth and economy. The institute that we are launching will be a place that gives life to ideas, where creativity is enhanced, where knowledge is distilled, and innovation rewarded.

It will be an epicenter of what I have long aspired for Kurdistan – a Knowledge Nation. A place where the best endeavors of our brightest people will be given the space and resources to prosper.

This facility will be tailored specifically to our youth, providing the equipment and financing necessary to pursue their ideas. Anyone who dares to innovate, who wants to devote their time to research and entrepreneurship and the development of technology, will be welcome here.

We as a government are in the market for ways to help us and to help you. We have long recognized that the talent of the Kurdish people has often remained unharnessed, to our collective detriment.

We also understand that in the past we have not created the environment necessary for many of our youth to fulfill all their dreams or unlock their full potential within our borders. Learning institutions and workplaces abroad have offered bigger and better opportunities.

And in many cases, our best and brightest have been unable to come home; at times they have been unable to put their ideas and projects to use for the betterment of Kurdistan, pursuing instead prominent careers in all walks of life in Europe, and elsewhere, where others have been fortunate to enjoy the benefits of their talents.

Make no mistake, we are proud of each and every member of our diaspora, which remains one of the most dynamic and resourceful in the world. I make no criticism of Kurds who have been forced to leave, often out of necessity. Decades of war, persecution, genocide, and pestilence have made many of exiles at some point in our lives. But, I say to you here today that the brain drain must stop soon. We must join hands through this institution for our collective good. And we are taking important steps to ensure that this happens.

I want to address an important aspect with you this morning, which has undoubtedly contributed to the reluctance of some of our people to return. In some of my discussions and through my own observations, it has become clear that critical thinking – the readiness to test and debate ideas, or to challenge decisions made by others – has not always been encouraged in our society and indeed our workplaces and academic centers.

I say to you all here today that this must change. Innovation is founded on challenge, not by decree. The world’s most creative workspaces are not ruled by fire breathing autocrats. More often than not, they are instead places where consensus is built from an alchemy of skill sets, with each and every team member adding value.

This is the very essence of human capital, the capacity to harness and incubate skills and ideas and turn them into outcomes. We can do this. We will do this.

Our people have earned the right to think big. I say to you here today that we will support ideas that introduce new technologies to make sure that we – in the KRG – can respond to the needs of the public quickly.

I recognize the gap between the public sector and what our private sector can deliver. This gap is steadily closing. And, at the same time, I have made it more rewarding to be an innovator.

Now, if any Kurd has an idea that he, or she wants to take to market, it is easier than ever to do so through public services or this institution. Red tape has been slashed, as have needless fees and other obstacles. We’re introducing protections for intellectual property; digitalizing our public infrastructure and pivoting to private banking. This will install the trust of our people in their elected government, and make it easier for national and international partners to rally behind this institute.

Our people are no strangers to innovation. I remember in the early 1990s, mills dotted our rivers in the countryside, powering our villages, workstations for local industries and other services. Today, thirty years since the founding of the KRG, we still haven’t met the public needs for electricity; demand and prosperity has perpetually outpaced the delivery. This is fast changing. The good news is that we’re not alone in this race; the need for clean, sustainable energy is on the rise around the world. We want to gather innovators and investors and use technology and eco-friendly practices to meet the energy needs of our people and join global efforts to tackle this existential threat.

Our partners understand this challenge. On my visits to the UAE this year I have been repeatedly impressed not just by the powerful nation that has been built in less than 50 years, but by the confidence and energy of the society and its model.

Driven by a common vision to create a state that provides for its citizens, modern states across the region and Asia have remained at the forefront of innovation, embarking on clean energy, design, science, technology and culture. Those who started early have now emerged at the cutting edge of global innovation. I’ve seen similar models across the Gulf. And, as is the case in Kurdistan, its people are its greatest asset. That will be the bedrock principle of the Kurdistan Innovation Institute.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The institute will also include a science park. Innovators will have the laboratory facilities to pursue their research in technology, medicine and mobility products to improve quality of life; our partnerships with incubators and universities on one hand, and research centers on the other, will create relationships and shortcuts for innovation and strengthen scientific infrastructure; and lastly, the institute will bring services to register their ideas. Entrepreneurs will have the institutional support to register patents here and abroad. They will learn how to attract investment, turn ideas into thriving businesses, and create jobs – things that benefit the public sector and public services.

In closing, I want to pay tribute to the extraordinary Kurds I’ve met both home and abroad, who share in our vision, and believe in our nation. As much as possible, I’ve tried to listen to them – entrepreneurs, students and business leaders poised to shape our region. They’ve strengthened my resolve and influenced policies in my government. Some of them have already attracted investor capital from the UK and the US to help develop their ideas. Our people abroad have won renowned awards in physics, mathematics, and engineering. Some have created companies in health, food, and other sectors now worth billions of dollars.

It is my vision, and indeed my belief, that this location will be a meeting place where great minds, extraordinary journeys and common destinies align. On this land, we can all dare to dream. Let us all stand together to applaud the launch of the Kurdistan Innovation Institute, the bedrock of our knowledge nation.

Thank you

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