New Abu Dhabi author­ity will spur in­no­va­tion

▶ Re­search, de­vel­op­ment and AI ini­tia­tive to help cat­a­pult coun­try into the fu­ture

The National - News - - OPINION -

Ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion. This say­ing, of­ten at­trib­uted to Plato, is find­ing a home in Abu Dhabi. The need to pre­pare for a post-oil fu­ture by di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­omy is giv­ing way to an emerg­ing class of thinkers and do­ers in the emi­rate. En­trepreneur­s, doc­toral can­di­dates, en­gi­neers, in­vestors and many oth­ers are rein­vent­ing Abu Dhabi’s fu­ture, bring­ing to bear the cap­i­tal’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion – and they got a ma­jor boost this week, when Abu Dhabi an­nounced the launch of a ground­break­ing new branch of gov­ern­ment fo­cused on re­search and de­vel­op­ment as well as a home­grown ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence joint ven­ture with Ad­noc.

The newly formed Abu Dhabi Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Author­ity is tasked with spurring in­ven­tions that will tackle Earth’s most press­ing chal­lenges. Un­der the emi­rate’s Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Knowl­edge (Adek), five vir­tual re­search in­sti­tutes will fo­cus on biotech­nol­ogy, food se­cu­rity, sus­tain­abil­ity, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and high-per­for­mance com­put­ing, and ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als. The cen­tres will bring to­gether in­dus­tries, uni­ver­si­ties and re­search in­sti­tutes on projects that will shape the coun­try’s fu­ture. The new author­ity is un­der­pinned by Ghadan 21, a Dh50 bil­lion stim­u­lus pack­age.

As Sara Musal­lam, the chair­woman of Adek, said: “We need to be in­ven­tors and not just con­sumers.” Her depart­ment is now in pur­suit of those in­ven­tors – an ex­cit­ing step change for a depart­ment once fo­cused sin­gu­larly on ed­u­ca­tion. Mean­while at Adipec, one of the world’s big­gest oil and gas con­fer­ences held an­nu­ally in Abu Dhabi, Ad­noc signed an agree­ment with UAE AI company Group 42 to form a ven­ture to de­velop ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent prod­ucts. Through the new company, Ad­noc will lever­age G42’s pro­cess­ing power to work more ef­fi­ciently. This is a “proactive ap­proach”, ac­cord­ing to Dr Sul­tan Al Jaber, Min­is­ter of State and Ad­noc Group chief ex­ec­u­tive. As the company con­fronts the op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges the dig­i­tal age brings, it is wise to part­ner with a home­grown ven­ture to pur­sue an AI strat­egy. Sales from AI and cloud com­put­ing drove growth for big tech this year, from Ama­zon to Mi­crosoft. By part­ner­ing with an AI busi­ness, Ad­noc will not be be­holden to other com­pa­nies to store, an­a­lyse or de­velop ap­pli­ca­tions for its huge trove of data. It can also build prod­ucts that are mar­ketable to other en­ergy com­pa­nies. By keep­ing its tech in-house, the en­ergy firm is po­si­tion­ing it­self well to com­pete in an age where data will even­tu­ally be a more valu­able com­mod­ity.

Ad­noc has al­ready opened two in­no­va­tion cen­tres in Abu Dhabi, one of which has gen­er­ated ef­fi­ciency sav­ings of up to Dh3.67bn in two years and helped re­duce drilling time by 30 per cent. The new AI ven­ture is likely to have a mul­ti­plier ef­fect on th­ese out­comes.

Oil re­mains the lifeblood of the emi­rate. Adipec is a re­minder that the UAE is still very much an oil-pro­duc­ing coun­try. But by in­sist­ing on in­no­va­tion at home, Abu Dhabi is en­sur­ing its di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­egy lifts up ev­ery­one – and we are all get­ting smarter in the process.

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