Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council sets future R&D Priorities


His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, and Chairman of the Board of ATRC, led the first board meeting for Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), to set the R&D priorities for the emirate. A first of its kind research and technology body in the Middle East region, ATRC is mandated to guide breakthrough discovery and disruption, ‘applied research’ and new age technologies through consolidated spending for greater influence and impact across the R&D ecosystem.

In the meeting, which was attended by HE Sara Awad Issa Musallam, HE Mohammad Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, HE Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, and HE Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of ATRC, His Highness reaffirmed Abu Dhabi Government’s efforts to make the emirate a desired home for global advanced technology talent, in line with an increasing number of pioneering research projects coming from Abu Dhabi and academic recognition for its institutions. His Highness reemphasised ATRC’s role in fostering public-private-partnerships, bringing together start-ups, SMEs and corporations with world-renowned universities and research institutions – strengthening networks, increasing knowledge exchange, and opening up more opportunities that enable new and existing expertise to thrive.

His Highness directed ATRC to create a comprehensive framework for the emirate’s R&D activities by aligning investment in scientific enquiry through the council, and by building partnerships with local and global organisations. In addition, he directed the Council to design ambitious research projects and streamline the journey of cutting-edge ideas from concepts to marketable solutions, in order to fast-track breakthrough discoveries. Furthermore, he instructed ATRC to create talent development programmes for graduates and young professionals in advanced technology, and expand academic placements, as well as student and faculty member exchanges, through partnerships in Abu Dhabi and around the world.

During the meeting, His Highness also set Abu Dhabi’s priority areas for applied research, starting with seven fields of advanced technology, which will be managed through the creation of dedicated research centres, and further fields of interest are to be proposed by the end of the year.

The ATRC board ratified the seven priorities, which are quantum, autonomous robotics, cryptography, advanced materials, digital security, directed energy, and secure systems.

HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “By investing in knowledge development, which enables our people and organisations to discover and innovate, Abu Dhabi is now at the forefront of scientific enquiry – from agritech solutions, to pioneering stem cell treatments, we are committed to solving tomorrow’s global challenges today. The Advanced Technology Research Council is a strategic incubator for this thriving sector, driving further growth, evaluating and supporting emerging fields of research and technology, nurturing talent, and fast-tracking breakthroughs, reinforcing Abu Dhabi’s position as a global centre for R&D.”

The Council is responsible for defining the advanced technology R&D strategy across Abu Dhabi emirate and for channelling funds to where it matters the most, giving the green light for investment to flow and for transformational research to begin. It has a dedicated project management pillar - ‘ASPIRE’, that will liaise with various stakeholders to frame research statements and grand challenges, ensuring that R&D investments have the best potential to reach commercial application and fulfil forward-looking future technology capabilities. It also has a knowledge and partnership pillar, the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), that will drive applied research, intellectual property (IP) development, academic and industry partnerships, and talent development. TII will also be responsible for the seven advanced technology R&D priorities.

HE Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of ATRC, said: “The Council is focused on the upcoming wave of breakthrough technologies and will ensure that funds are channelled efficiently and seamlessly for purposeful application, creating an innovation path from ‘lab to market’. By bringing together an intellectual, solution-oriented community through an aligned strategy and framework for discovery, we are advancing R&D for the region and beyond in a manner that has never been attempted before.”

He added: “Ultimately, we want to foster a culture of curiosity and exploration, and inspire the next generation of exceptional talent in science and advanced technology. We hope the brightest talent from the UAE and from around the world will be encouraged to pursue careers in this space, as Abu Dhabi works to push the boundaries of this flourishing ecosystem.”

In the months ahead, ATRC will rapidly work on delivering against its objectives to demonstrate its agility and impact, while contributing to the emirate’s knowledge-based economy.

The launch of ATRC follows the UAE’s ranking as the highest Arab country in the 2019 Global Innovation Index, and comes at a time when an unprecedented 45 per cent of students in the country are already pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

In just the past few months, research efforts spearheaded in Abu Dhabi have resulted in pioneering new approaches to the pandemic, such as G42’s Health AI Platform leveraging AI to provide advanced tools to speed up the detection of COVID-19, and Khalifa University’s wastewater detection project that provides an early detection system for identifying geographically localised outbreaks, as well as other key breakthroughs including Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre’s first bone marrow transplant.