The summit was attended by QD Solar and KAUST, which has invested heavily into the solar startup.

Saudi Arabia is set to become a power player in the global solar market. The Kingdom has been gradually increasing its participation in the solar power sphere for several years, and reached a massive milestone earlier this month, when the Royal Commission announced plans to build the largest solar power factory in the Middle East.Saudi Arabia has reportedly invested 3 billion USD in the renewable energy sector to date, and plans to spend an additional 109 billion USD on renewable energy by 2040. By 2020, Saudi Arabia will account for 70 percent of the total value of renewable energy projects in the Gulf region. This is not only a technological leap forward, but an environmental necessity; according to Frost & Sullivan, the Kingdom’s energy demand will grow by 45 percent from 69 GW in 2014 to 100 GW in 2040.

Meeting this massive increase in Saudi energy demand will require not only financial stimulus, but also innovation within solar power technology to ensure cost efficiency and viability of implementation. This is being made possible by the work of innovative solar startups like QD Solar, a Canadian company that aims to commercialise colloidal quantum dots. These tiny semiconductor particles have the ability to harvest energy not only from the visible spectrum, but also from the near-infrared portion of the sun’s light – a previously untapped source of energy.This breakthrough technology was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Toronto, led by Edward Sargent, one of the founders of QD Solar. In 2009, Sargent’s research team received a grant from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and the university has been a major investor in QD Solar since the startup’s establishment.KAUST’s investment in QD Solar reflects its strong commitment to supporting solar power ventures that could help usher in the era of renewable energy in the Kingdom. “By encouraging the transition of science into innovation and new ventures we can help to establish a fertile ecosystem for early-stage technology-based companies in Saudi Arabia,” says Nicola Bettio, manager of the KAUST Innovation Fund.According to Marc Vermeersch, Managing Director of the Solar and Photovoltaics Engineering Research Center at KAUST, the key advantage of QD Solar’s hybrid system is that it allows solar panel producers to modify their existing manufacturing practices without having to start from scratch. This means manufacturers will be able to significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency using QD Solar’s colloidal quantum dots.

“Our latest design incorporates the dots into a solution, or ‘paint’, which can be applied to flexible surfaces very easily and cheaply,” Sargent explains. “We have also vastly improved the power conversion efficiency of the dots over the past six years, thanks in part to the funding from KAUST.” In a clear sign that the ties between the solar startup and the university will continue to strengthen, QD Solar reportedly plans to establish a development facility in KAUST’s Research & Technology Park.

Representatives from QD Solar and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology were among the attendees of the inaugural MENA Private Equity & Venture Capital Summit, organized by multinational business facilitation company Naseba. The summit took place October 25th to 26th 2015 in Riyadh, and introduced 150 investors based in the Gulf and the wider MENA region to some of the most high-potential business cases from around the world.

The summit was designed to create the ultimate deal-flow between established investors like KAUST, and innovative business cases like QD Solar. Its unique format of one-to-one meetings between pre-qualified business cases and pre-screened investors provided an ideal networking environment in which to establish and strengthen business relationships.

The summit also featured speeches and panel discussion contributions from high profile leaders like His Royal Highness Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, President of King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology.

The summit was “a great platform for raising money”, according to QD Solar’s Chairman and Strategic Advisory Board member Dan Shea. He remarked that he met many investors with genuine interest and considerable capital to deploy, saying “I’ve lost count in terms of the number that I’ve met… Quality has been excellent.”

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