Sultan Al-Sadaqa did not find it difficult to ask his supervisor for a two-month leave to join the innovation program sponsored by Saudi Aramco this year under the theme “Synthetic Biology.” Underscoring the importance of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture’s Keystone innovation hub, Al-Sadaqa, who lives in Riyadh, gladly spent eight weeks in al-Khobar to participate in the program and said he had no regrets. Maha Al-Mansour, another participant in the program supported by the Center, postponed starting her new job until after the program was completed. She echoed Al-Sadaqa’s sentiments. “I didn’t have any regrets — not for a single moment,” Al-Mansour said. “The Keystone Program is really worth the sacrifice.” Three dozen male and female participants presented on the theme of synthetic biology at the program’s closing ceremony June 17 at the Dhahran Plaza. The event was attended by Abdulaziz F. Al-Khayyal, senior vice president of Industrial Relations; Muhammad Al-Ali, senior vice president of Finance; Essam Z. Tawfiq, general manager of Public Affairs; as well as a number of the company’s officials, department managers and unit supervisors. The ceremony also was attended by Eastern Province businessmen, thought leaders and academics in a show of support to the social development initiative. “Keystone is a program with a touch of originality,” said Fuad F. Al-Therman, director of the Center. “It concentrates on enriching imagination and enhancing innovation out of our belief that imagination is a major tributary of knowledge. The Center team exerts maximum effort in helping transform the Kingdom into a society famous for innovation and into a society that is a leader worldwide by tapping the endless capacities of its generations.” During the eight-week program, participants worked at the Art Science Lab — an affiliate of Harvard University Laboratories — to develop their synthetic biology projects. The lab was conducted for a third consecutive time in partnership with the Center in an attempt to attract innovators from throughout the Kingdom. The 36 participants hailed from all disciplines of science, including medicine, engineering, applied sciences, architecture and technology. By merging arts with science, the teams developed eight innovative projects designed to improve people’s lives. Throughout the course of the program, participants had objectives and skill sets to be achieved. Project teams were formed first; then ideas were put on the table, and then they were developed each week. In the end, the final exhibit at the Plaza not only documented the innovative work of the talented participants, but it also served as a showcase. A variety of visitors with interest in the arts and sciences, entrepreneurs and finance experts took keen interest as they explored the ideas presented through the various projects. “The Keystone Program is a unique program Kingdom-wide,” said Fatmah Al-Rashid, Design Division head and developer of the innovation programs at the Center. “The program adopts a quadrangle of arts, sciences, technology and entrepreneurship. Its methodology focuses on dealing with each idea as a project with an assigned multidisciplinary team, thereby enhancing excellence in the innovation process. “We have previously conducted Kingdom-wide research that confirmed our belief that our young people possess hidden creative capabilities and enthusiasm, if they had the incentive-laded environments and the supporting programs that enable them to conduct experiments without the fear of failure. "On the personal level, I’m extremely happy to see young people not only bringing creative ideas into reality in complex subjects such as synthetic biology, but also gaining more confidence in themselves and their capabilities and feeling they are capable of achieving the impossible through their efforts, perseverance and continuity,” she added. Al-Rashid explained that the impetus of the program is to give participants an opportunity over the eight weeks to conduct creative experiments in a realistic manner that enables them to implement such experiments in their everyday lives.