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Qatar Foundation

The non-profit organisation aims to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy by 2030

Company snapshot

Date established 1995

Main business sector Education

Main business region Qatar

Chairwoman Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Misned


Telephone (+974) 4 454 0000

In numbers

2.8 per cent: Amount of Qatar’s GDP allocated to research

14,000 sq km: Size of the Education City site

$7.96bn: Value of Sidra Centre endowment

GDP=Gross domestic product; sq km=Square kilometres. Source: MEED


Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is an independent non-profit organisation that was set up in 1995 by Qatar’s emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to lead the state’s transformation into a modern, knowledge-based economy by 2030.

Qatar Foundation is supported by an endowment funded by the country’s enormous hydrocarbons revenues. The size and details of the endowment are unknown. The foundation is governed by a seven-member board of trustees and a board of directors. The emir’s consort, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, chairs the organisation and is the driving force behind its many initiatives. Qatar Foundation is headquartered at Education City, its flagship development in western Doha.


Qatar Foundation’s activities are organised into three main areas: education; science and research; and community development. Each division is led by its own president. The foundation’s education arm has focused on introducing a Western model of education into Qatar, concentrated on a single site at Education City, into Qatar as an alternative to the state-run system. In 1996, it established the private, co-educational Qatar Academy, which offers teaching from pre-school age to university entrance level.

Qatar Foundation has also partnered with Western universities to fund the opening of branch campuses in Doha, specifically targeting those that provide the skills needed in a knowledge-based economy. Six US universities have set up at Education City, including Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University and Carnegie Mellon University. The most recent partnership, with France’s HEC Paris, was agreed early last year to offer executive education programmes.

Qatar Foundation has been able to attract these institutions to Doha by agreeing to cover all their operating and management costs for at least 10 years, in addition to paying a fee to the parent campus and providing state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities. The financial commitment is substantial. The contract signed with Weill Cornell is estimated to be worth $750m over 10 years. The universities follow their home campuses’ curriculums, charge the same tuition fees and employ the same admission standards.

Education City also houses the centrepiece of Qatar Foundation’s research activities: Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). It is a $600m innovation centre for the development and commercialisation of technology. QSTP provides world-class research facilities for international firms and also offers support for start-up technology companies.

This year should see the opening of Qatar Foundation’s $2.3bn Sidra Medical & Research Centre. The centre, which has been set up with a $7.9bn endowment, will offer clinical care, medical education and biomedical research. The hospital will initially have 412 beds and the clinical focus will be on obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics. The foundation’s other research plans include an aerospace city at Al-Khor, which will include a research facility dedicated to satellite and space sciences.

Research is a major priority for the Qatari government. It has pledged to allocate 2.8 per cent of the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) to support research. Based on a total GDP of $127.3bn in 2010, this amounts to about $3.6bn a year. Qatar Foundation is responsible for disbursing this money and its research division allocates funds to projects both locally and internationally, provided at least half of the research is conducted in Qatar.

Qatar Foundation’s community activities are wide-ranging and have included the establishment of a diabetes centre, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Al-Jazeera Children’s Channel television station. It also regularly stages lectures, debates and career fairs. 

The foundation is also involved in a major regeneration programme in central Doha. The Msheireb project entails the revival of a 31-hectare area, including construction of more than 100 buildings. The scheme is being developed by Msheireb Properties, a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation. The foundation also has stakes in several other government-backed companies, such as gas shipping firm Nakilat.


Qatar Foundation’s motto “unlocking human potential” captures the size of its role in transforming the country’s economy. If a project fits with the values inherent in Qatar’s National Vision 2030, the organisation seems willing to back it. As a result, the foundation’s list of planned projects is continually growing.

The organisation’s immediate focus is on completing the Sidra medical project, Qatar Central Library and the faculty buildings. But the Education City masterplan can accommodate another 10 universities. The site is also intended to have a main rail station, which will connect a light rail system for travel within the campus to the Doha metro planned by the government, and to the GCC railway when it is built. 

MEED assessment

Qatar Foundation is essentially a guardian of the country’s hydrocarbons wealth, channelling funds into ventures of long-term value that, in time, are intended to become revenue generators of their own. It is difficult to overstate the contribution the foundation has made to Qatar’s development. In little more than a decade, it has raised the country’s standard of education and helped Qatar earn worldwide renown for its ambition and commitment to construction quality.

The next decade will see Qatar Foundation improve the standard of healthcare and medical research through its Sidra project. Doha will also benefit from the hundreds of skilled graduates of Education City entering the local economy, as well as the small and medium-sized business sector supported by QSTP. Qatar Foundation’s journey has not been without problems, but they are far outweighed by its successes.

Education City

Qatar Foundation’s Education City development has sustained the local construction sector over the past decade.

Since 2006, the foundation has launched about $20bn-worth of construction projects. Its schemes are managed by Amstad, a project management company operated by state energy firm Qatar Petroleum. Most of the construction activity has so far focussed on developing the 14,000-square-kilometre Education City campus. 

Qatar Foundation has enlisted world-renowned architects to design the buildings at the site in order to create aesthetically striking, modern facilities that reflect both the surrounding environment and Qatar’s Islamic heritage, while being practical and functional. The master plan for the site was devised by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. He also designed several individual buildings, including the ceremonial court, the convention centre, the liberal arts and science building and the facility for Weill Cornell Medical College.

Mexican father-and-son architectural team Legorreta & Legorreta designed the buildings for Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the iconic Texas A&M faculty, which stands out for the pyramids clustered around its forecourt. The futuristic Sidra Medical & Research Centre was designed by Argentinean architect Cesar Pelli, while Australia’s Woods Bagot was the architect for Qatar Science & Technology Park.

Sustainability has been a central element in Qatar Foundation’s projects and the organisation has set itself the target of earning LEED green-building ratings for all its future projects.

Away from Education City, Qatar Foundation is behind the $5.5bn Msheireb urban regeneration project. The 750,000-square-metre development is being built behind the Emiri Diwan centre on the Doha corniche. In 2010, a joint venture of South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company and the local HBK Contracting Company was awarded a QR1.6bn ($275m) contract to build phase 1a of the development. The initial phase involves the construction of the Diwan Quarter, which includes the Diwan Annex, Amiri Guard and the National Archive, plus a heritage quarter with the Eid prayer ground and four heritage houses. The total built-up area of the buildings is about 144,000 sq m.

A joint venture of the UK’s Carillion and the local Qatar Building Company was awarded the QR2.37bn contract to build phase 1b of the project. It comprises 15 buildings, including a Mandarin Oriental hotel containing 158 rooms and 91 service units, two office buildings with 52 retail units, and 12 residential buildings providing a total of 180 apartments. The phase 1c package will include the construction of residential apartments, office buildings and a school, and is expected to be awarded later this year. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2016.