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Challenge 22 winner 'proud' to be playing creative part in FIFA World Cup™

Thieab Aldossary showed signs of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism from childhood, and now – as a winner of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy's (SC) flagship innovation award – says he is 'proud' and 'excited' to be able to harness the spirit of the FIFA World Cup™ to bring his ideas to life. With the second cycle of Challenge 22 set to begin later this year, the Arab inventor is actively encouraging others to follow suit.

 Challenge 22 winner 'proud' to be playing creative part in FIFA World Cup™

Photo: Stars of Science

In 2015, Aldossary was announced as one of six inaugural winners of Challenge 22 – an SC competition designed to encourage and enhance innovation in Qatar and across the Middle East.

His journey to that memorable day in June 2015 has taken him across four cities, three continents and almost a decade's worth of research, tinkering and tailoring – but his entrepreneurial spirit has, he says, remained an integral part of his life. 

"I think that's always been there," he told www.sc.qa. "When the internet was new in England and I was at school in Saudi Arabia, I used to get my cousin to look up all the moves on certain video games. He would fax them over and I would make a magazine and sell them for 10 riyals. So I guess you could say that side of things has always been in me."

After living in Saudi Arabia until the age of 13, he moved to England to attend high school and then university. Post-graduation, he spent time in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before earning a scholarship to study for a Master's degree in Systems Technology at George Washington University in the United States. 

As well as pursuing his academic goals, his creative and innovative instincts remained strong, as did his desire to stay one step ahead of the game. He needed a project to work on, and that turned out to be the Feelix Palm – a device that communicates to the visually impaired in a tactile manner.

 Challenge 22 winner 'proud' to be playing creative part in FIFA World Cup™

Photo: Stars of Science

"I knew somebody that was working on software that would be able to identify objects through a camera, and indicate to a blind or visually impaired user what those objects were," he continued. "I had a lot of questions, such as 'how does that communicate to the user?'. 

"He said he was only making the software and not really thinking about the user interaction. So I thought, 'brilliant – I'll do that'. And that's how it began."

That was 2007 – and despite making progress with prototypes and patents, the project stalled and was eventually put into the drawer. But never locked away.

Never idle, between then and now, he also appeared on 'Stars of Science' – a Qatar Foundation-funded television programme that offered a cash prize of $300,000 to the winner – with a different product. 

Photo: Stars of Science

He was a finalist and received a $50,000 prize. But crucially, his original concept, prototype and patent for the palm tactile communicator was still sitting unused at the bottom of a drawer. And then along came Challenge 22.

"I just came across a post – I think it was on Instagram – about all the legacy work the SC was doing," he recalled. 

"It was another competition and I'd already been through one, so I thought 'oh great'. Because I still had my original patent and prototype, I thought I would go for it again. You don't get anything in life unless you ask for it. So I just got good at asking I suppose."

Ask he did, and in the summer of 2015 he found out he was one of six winners. He has not looked back since and, in addition to the funding, support and acceleration it has provided him, Challenge 22 has, he says, given him a sense of belonging – to what has always been billed as a FIFA World Cup™ for the region.

Photo: Stars of Science

"I'm very proud to be a part of it," he said. "I'm also hugely grateful. Challenge 22 has made it all happen. I have money now, and once you have money things become a lot easier. 

He continued: "I really like the way that Qatar is putting a focus on Arab innovation. What I especially like about this tournament – and this programme specifically – is that they really do want to make everyone feel involved. 

"I'm not a Qatari citizen, but I don't feel excluded because I'm not a Qatari and they've made my project happen.

"People say 'wow you won those competitions', but they made the competitions. They appreciated what I'm doing and they've helped me enormously. I'm very happy about it and I do feel as though I am a part of it."

And as Cycle 2 of the competition approaches, Aldossary ended with some words of advice to potential new entrants.

"It's absolutely worthwhile. It's incredible. You get great funding as well as all the mentorship, which is difficult to put a price on. I have a coach in QSTP who has been extremely helpful and knowledgeable for the development of the project. The acceleration all that provides is invaluable."

Thieab currently works as a patent marketing specialist at Masdar Institute, in addition to developing his technology. He has registered his company under the name of Feelix Technologies. For more information on Feelix and their projects please visit www.feelix.co.

Challenge 22 returns later this year and Cycle 2 will open the programme to more countries across the region than ever before. Keep an eye out on www.sc.qa for an important announcement soon – and you could be the next person to cultivate innovation in the Middle East, and play your part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™.

#Challenge22 #Innovation