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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

The future of the country lies in the hands of its scientific innovators

An academy is laying the foundations for a knowledge economy that will reap rewards for years to come

Children take part in Abu Dhabi Science Festival / Christopher Pike / The National
Children take part in Abu Dhabi Science Festival / Christopher Pike / The National

Science, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, is the basis of development and prosperity. Decades ago, the priority in the country was to eke out a living in the harsh desert environment, while the new phase in the country’s development rests on the shoulders of its innovators and scientists. It was apt, then, that the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai chose to convey that message in the country's birthplace. In the Etihad Museum, opened in the newly restored Union House, he spoke at the first annual meeting of the Mohammed bin Rashid Academy of Scientists today, a hand-selected group of the creme de la creme of the scientific world. About 120 experts in their fields, from physics and biotechnology to medicine, artificial intelligence and aerospace science, were chosen by the Emirates Scientists Council a year ago to form the academy and start shaping the future. Among them are a group of 21 to 30 year olds at the start of their careers in science.

The responsibility upon them is huge; the potential outcome in changing the face of the Emirates even bigger. Their job will be to improve the quality of life and productivity. For the chosen 120 come from fields that affect every aspect of life and based on the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, their expertise will be intrinsic to what life might look like in 50 years. The scientific community, he said, will play a key role in supporting the country’s development at every level.

Crucial to their research will be security and sustainability, as well as carving its place in innovation on the global map. No small stakes but, said Sheikh Mohammed, “our confidence in you is greater”. The UAE has already confounded expectations in its first 46 years with its advances in construction, technology and infrastructure. It is now nurturing the scientists of tomorrow, with institutions like the academy and space research centres and events like the Abu Dhabi Science Festival inspiring young, inquisitive minds. These are bricks in the knowledge economy it is building its future upon, with its leaders the architects drawing grand designs. What they might eventually create we do not yet know, but it is fair to assume these handpicked innovators will be the beating heart of it.

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