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Dubai’s National R&D program debuts to nurture future generation of researchers

The program involves 22 selected participants from diverse backgrounds and entities.

Dubai’s National R&D program debuts to nurture future generation of researchers
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The UAE’s National R&D program was launched yesterday, encouraging participants to leverage their research and innovation capabilities. Initiated in September 2022, the program aims to strengthen the Gulf state’s position as a robust knowledge-based economy.

During her opening keynote on the first day of the program launch, Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology, reflected on establishing the R&D ecosystem. She emphasized, “What was a stark realization for us is the absence of both leadership and understanding of the role of research and development in both the commercial space, along with the government and the academic space.”

“Understanding the value of research is imperative so that we’re all speaking the same language and moving towards advancing science and technology across the spectrum. Research is no longer a luxury for nations to have. Research is a driver for economic growth. Research and development and commercialization are drivers for the diversification of our economy. It is the engine by which the UAE’s investment in its future can move forward,” she adds.

The R&D Program has outlined four priority areas across the emirate — health and well-being, environmental technology, smart built infrastructure and space and augmented human-machine intelligence.

In a panel discussion titled “Shaping Tomorrow: R&D’s Role in National Development,” Dr. Fareed Al Amiri, Advisor of Technology and Science Policies and Programs, outlined the essential components of an R&D ecosystem and discussed how the national program can enhance the ecosystem on a broader scale.

Dr. Fareed Al Amiri emphasizes the significance of having the right government and policies at the macro level, focusing on R&D commercialization, involving international advanced researchers, and nurturing the youth to become researchers. Additionally, he highlights the importance of assessing the extent to which organizations and individuals are willing to adopt an innovative mindset.

“The question is here: how am I contributing to the objective, national objective? That kind of balance needs to be always kept in mind, and as you create knowledge, you need to look at it equally from the applied and exploitation perspectives. We tried through the program and even each module to customize each outline to reflect our gaps and needs.”

In the same panel, Tariq Al Hashimi, Assistant Undersecretary of Advanced Technology, notes that a successful R&D ecosystem should be able to “translate inputs effectively into useful outputs, such as services and products.”

“The next development phase in the UAE will be highly dependent on advancement in technology and innovation. The next 50 years will require us to innovate. R&D is still viewed as a burden, a cost by many, whereas it’s essentially one of the main growth drivers. It’s key to their survival. It’s key to their competitiveness. And in the UAE, our industries will require this.”

The program will be administered by New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the University of Manchester for seven months.

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