KAUST Partners with Makkah Cultural Forum, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and DARP on the Inaugural KAUST Challenge to Crowdsource Ideas and Solutions for Hajj and Umrah 2020

  • Challenge focuses on improving the Hajj and Umrah experience for pilgrims from all over the world
  • Challenge receives over 1,300 applications
  • Challenge tackles three themes: healthcare, mobility and crowd management

Makkah Al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) today announced that the Makkah Cultural Forum, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and Doyof Al Rahman Program (DARP) have signed on as strategic partners to the KAUST Challenge – Ideas and Solutions for Hajj and Umrah 2020. In line with Saudi Arabia’s national priorities and Vision 2030, the recently launched inaugural edition of the KAUST Challenge focuses on improving the Hajj and Umrah experience for pilgrims from all over the world and on advancing efforts to make Makkah a smart city.

Aimed at catalyzing research, innovation, economic development and social prosperity in Saudi Arabia through new crowdsourcing initiatives that invite local and international talent to propose science- and technology-based ideas and solutions, the KAUST Challenge – Ideas and Solutions for Hajj & Umrah 2020 features three themes – healthcare, mobility and crowd management. As strategic partners of the KAUST Challenge, the Makkah Cultural Forum, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and DARP will send representatives to sit on an independent jury that will assess the submissions and will select the winning ideas and solutions for each theme and the overall winner of this first edition of the KAUST Challenge. Entrants compete for SAR 1 million in cash and other prizes.

In announcing the partnerships, Najah Ashry, Vice President for Strategic National Advancement at KAUST, said: “Today, we have forged strategic partnerships with three distinguished Saudi organizations to bolster the outcomes of the KAUST Challenge. We are confident that their expertise will support the Challenge in addressing national priorities of better serving the increasing number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and improving their experiences in the two holy cities. At KAUST, we seek to support bold science, technology and engineering initiatives that aim to transform the lives of Saudis and develop national talent. We are excited by the possibilities that crowdsourcing can provide – hi-tech advances that might spur creative ideas and quickly assist in solving old and new challenges that Hajj and Umrah pilgrims face.”

“This partnership with KAUST creates a wide gateway for innovative ideas and creative research to come through,” said Dr. Amr Almaddah, Deputy Minister for Hajj and Umrah Services in the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. “We hope that the winning ideas and solutions will create positive change in the Hajj and Umrah work and service ecosystem.”

“The partnership with King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, an international research university, will effectively help us to meet our objective of improving the level of services provided to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, one of the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030”, said Dr. Rami bin Abdul Rahim Kinsara, Chief Executive Officer of Doyof Al Rahman Program (DARP). “The KAUST Challenge, with its three themes, is directly related to our aspiration to create a transformative experience with sustainable economic and social value.”

The Challenge’s three main themes were selected based on recent research that identified key priorities for pilgrims today. The healthcare theme focuses on stepping up preventive measures and safeguarding the health and well-being of all pilgrims – a concern augmented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the mobility theme seeks to ensure adequate availability and access to public and private transport, and the crowd management theme explores ways to enhance infrastructure and meet capacity requirements for large crowds.

The KAUST Challenge, powered by Accenture, has received more than 1,300 applications. To gather valuable input from the Challenge, KAUST and its strategic partners targeted participation from a wide segment of local and international participants. A panel of expert judges, including members from the Makkah Cultural Forum, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and DARP, will select one winning idea for each theme and award one grand prize for the best idea overall during a virtual finale, set to take place on an immersive platform in late February 2021.


King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) advances science and technology through distinctive and collaborative research integrated with graduated education. Located on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, KAUST conducts curiosity-driven and goal-oriented research to address global challenges related to food, water, energy and environment. Established in 2009, KAUST is a catalyst for innovation, economic development and social prosperity in Saudi Arabia and the world. The University currently educates and trains master’s and doctoral students, supported by an academic community of faculty members, post-doctoral fellows and research scientists. With over 100 nationalities working and living at KAUST, the University brings together people and ideas from all over the world.


Makkah Cultural Forum is an initiative and intellectual project in line with the comprehensive vision of Makkah Region, adopted by HRH Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Governor of Makkah Region, of “Building Humanity for the Development of the Place” Strategy. This strategy prioritizes the importance of building up strong and faithful Saudis who can improve their homeland and promote the civilization of their country.

This year, the Makkah Cultural Forum is running under the theme ‘How to be a role model in the digital world’. It seeks to provide creative ideas to upgrade the level of digital solutions and their applications in the region, with the aim of nurturing initiatives that enhance the concept of role models in the digital world and raise the level of use of digital systems in cooperation and coordination between government, private and civil agencies in the region of Mecca.


The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah coordinates with the Saudi government and local authorities to manage and operate Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, controls and regulates services through the development of systems, uses technology to increase the effectiveness of staff to serve pilgrims, and develops infrastructure works with a core focus on offering religious hospitality in compliance with the international standards.


Doyof Al Rahman Program (DARP) was launched under the umbrella of Saudi Vision 2030 to enhance the spiritual experience Hajj and Umrah pilgrims to reflect the true image of the Kingdom as it serves the Two Holy Mosques. This aim is attained by enlarging the absorptive capacity of the Hajj and Umrah ecosystem. DARP also works with success partners to develop and improve this ecosystem with the aim of becoming an enabler of the private sector. DARP is affiliated with the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and was launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques at Al Safa Palace in Makkah in May 2019.