In recent years, the term serendipity has become the latest buzzword around innovation.
For it is through serendipitous moments—in other words: the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it—that some of the world’s most important scientific breakthroughs were achieved. The ‘accidental’ discovery of the cholera vaccine in 1879 by French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur is a case in point. In Silicon Valley, tech companies such as Apple, Google and Yahoo have been among the first to recognize the potential of serendipity in innovation – and to act on it. Among the initiatives: new buildings are being designed to trigger “casual collisions” of the work force that bring about the “aha” kind of moments that potentially lead to innovation breakthroughs.Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), already home to numerous research and development (R&D) labs set up by local and international energy companies, has the potential to fulfill a similar role in the regional energy sector. To be sure, industrial R&D that produces bread-and-butter-type innovations for companies will always have to have a large element of structure and focus to it. But as Qatar’s energy R&D ambitions shift from concept stage to implementation following the announcement of the three research priority areas of energy, water and cyber security in November, adding an element of serendipity may take its efforts to the next level.