Innovation has been a key area of focus for the United Arab Emirates since it announced its National Innovation Strategy in 2014.
The strategy was triggered to realise success in innovation, based on four tracks: creating a stimulating environment for innovation (through institutions and laws); supporting innovative practices through embedding them in government; stimulating corporate innovation through research centres, and encouraging adoption of new technology; and developing individuals through training in innovation skills across the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The innovation strategy is prioritizing innovation across 7 sectors that are seen areas where the UAE can lead, not just in the Arab world, but make an impact globally. Renewable energy, transportation, technology, education, space, water and health are the sectors that have already attracted billions of US dollars in investment from the government, with a chief innovation officer being inserted into each federal governmental department, coupled with system-wide educational reformed to ensure STEM subjects are prioritised.
The approach is already receiving recognition. Within the Arab world the UAE is ranked as number 1 on the Global Innovation Index, and has facilitated pivotal agreements to be signed between the UAE and NASA which will see Emirati astronauts join future space missions. Water is another areas where UAE is taking a lead, reaching out globally to collaborate on water technology towards holistic and sustainable approaches – locally, nationally, and internationally. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another technology area where UAE are breaking new ground. With potential applications across most, if not all, of the 7 sectors on Innovation Strategy, AI is receiving a lot of attention. The first university of artificial intelligence – Mohamed bi Zayed University of AI – was launched in Abu Dhabi n late 2020, and will educate students on how AI is already changing the world, and how the future might benefit from exploring the full potential of AI in all sectors.