His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, has chaired the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC)’s board meeting. During the meeting, His Highness reviewed the council’s achievements in advancing research and development (R&D) in the emirate and endorsed plans to expand capabilities to guide further technology breakthroughs as part of next-phase priorities.
His Highness highlighted how the council’s progress in research and development reflects Abu Dhabi’s key strategic focus to be at the forefront of scientific enquiry and breakthroughs as a means of driving the growth and prosperity of the emirate and its people. His Highness added that the council’s ongoing efforts include a commitment to advancing knowledge and innovation as the foundation of a long-term sustainable future.
Also attending the meeting were His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology; His Excellency Mohamed Hassan Alsuwaidi, Minister of Investment; His Excellency Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority; His Excellency Mansoor Ibrahim Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi; His Excellency Ahmed Tamim Al Kuttab, Chairman of the Department of Government Enablement - Abu Dhabi; and His Excellency Faisal Abdulaziz Al Bannai, Secretary General of the Advanced Technology Research Council.
Expanding Abu Dhabi’s R&D ecosystem
Since ATRC was established in 2020, 10 cutting-edge research centres have been established, which have attracted a talent pool of 851 researchers from more than 70 countries, including 193 UAE Nationals, to focus on priority areas such as autonomous robotics, quantum computing technology, and artificial intelligence (AI).
The council has also facilitated scientific contributions by publishing 1,114 studies, filing 47 patents, and completing 93 advanced product prototypes, from which 22 solutions have been accepted by key clients. The ATRC currently has more than 110 global R&D partnerships, including collaborative programmes with targeted R&D outputs.
The ATRC’s progress in accelerating R&D projects in Abu Dhabi includes the launch of ResearchHub.ae, a centralised portal that connects researchers, innovators, higher education institutes and research organisations, and provides them with information and resources to foster a collaborative environment for the advancement of knowledge and expertise.
To nurture future tech talent and encourage young people across the UAE to explore careers in advanced technology, the ATRC also launched the NextTech initiative, which has already placed 100 Emirati students in over 25 leading technology universities around the world.
Additionally, the ATRC launched the STEM Youth Mentorship Program, to connect promising young high school-to-graduate-level STEM talent with expert tech mentors from across academia and the tech industry. In the pilot phase, 50 mentees, including 43 from Abu Dhabi-based high schools were matched with expert mentors. The first official cohort of the Program in January 2024 will see more than 200 mentees from high schools and universities in the emirate teamed up with 150 mentors.
Technology Innovation Institute
The Technology Innovation Institute (TII), the applied research arm of ATRC, launched Falcon – the UAE’s first generative AI large language model (LLM). Both its Falcon 40B and 180B models outperformed leading tech companies and were open-sourced for research and commercial use. Building on the success of TII’s AI development, ATRC launched AI71, a pioneering AI company that focuses on multi-domain specialisations, while offering unprecedented AI data control options for companies and countries looking to self-host for greater privacy. Other TII achievements include being home to one of the world’s largest teams dedicated to research in cryptography and launching the first post-quantum cryptography software library in the UAE. It is also developing what will be the Arab world’s first Quantum Qubit, one of a handful of initiatives around the world to build a full stack quantum computer.
Other notable achievements by TII include advancements in solar panel coating to improve performance and reduce maintenance; GPS-less navigation systems to enable autonomous logistics; innovative methods to clear landmines for global humanitarian missions; and enabling quantum communication.
ASPIRE, ATRC’s programme management arm, has also made strides in driving R&D to create transformative future technologies. Its achievements include the launch of the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL), which is pushing the boundaries of driverless capabilities by promoting the use of cutting-edge innovations in AI and innovative sensor technologies in race cars, drones and dune buggies. A2RL’s inaugural autonomous race, will be held at the Yas Marina Circuit on 28 April 2024, and will offer a glimpse into the future of autonomous driving with both virtual and real-life experiences.
XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion is an ASPIRE-partnered initiative designed to find the next best alternative to chicken or fish protein. The US$15 million pool prized competition invites food scientists, technologists and innovators to compete, and is set to award winners in the summer of 2024.
ASPIRE also manages The Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC), an international robotics competition held in Abu Dhabi. The competition draws participation from universities, research centres, companies and innovators from across the world to develop solutions for some of the most pressing global challenges, through applied autonomous robotic technology.
During the meeting, His Highness endorsed plans for the next phase of ATRC’s priorities, which include strengthening the global talent pool of researchers in the emirate and expanding the R&D workforce by nurturing local youth talent in STEM through a series of targeted initiatives.
The council will also expand its ecosystem by launching a series of competitive and technology-driven ventures to strengthen Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading hub for advanced tech startups, through its commercialisation entity VentureOne، while preparing for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
ATRC’s plans also include delivering technological solutions in key areas such as water tech, renewable energy, diagnostics and therapeutics, and generative AI – and drive end-user alignment to ensure adoption and impact.