x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Abu Dhabi University helps young entrepreneurs bridge the business gap

Students from Abu Dhabi University are learning the a to z of starting up a business - all thanks to its innovation centre.

Ibrahim bin Madhi, 25, right, a mechanical engineer student and Radhya Mohamed, 22, left, a finance student, with Rima Shaban, the manager of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Abu Dhabi University. Christopher Pike / The National
Ibrahim bin Madhi, 25, right, a mechanical engineer student and Radhya Mohamed, 22, left, a finance student, with Rima Shaban, the manager of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Abu Dhabi University. Christopher Pike / The National

Abu Dhabi // From the green shoots of a sustainable furniture company to grand designs for a local architecture firm, Emirati students are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit.

Ibrahim bin Madhi, 25, a mechanical engineering student, is just one of these business pioneers of the future.

He wants to supply environmentally friendly office products, and has already found a company in Sharjah that can make some of the equipment for the business.

“We need to simply go green. I chose this field because I wanted to contribute to saving the environment as our country is very focused on the subject,” he said.

“The company asked me to supply them a design and prototype. Then they will produce it for me. It is a long plan.

“First I will target university campuses and government entities. Then I will push into the market.”

It is all being made possible by Abu Dhabi University’s innovation and entrepreneurship centre.

The centre supports budding young Emirati entrepreneurs in the UAE and is an important bridge between academia and industry.

It won the Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Best Supporting University for Entrepreneurship in the UAE and Arab World this month.

Mr bin Madhi said that before he went to the centre, he did not know much about how to set up a business.

“Before taking this course, How to Start a Business, I was in the dark but now I know what I have to do,” he said. “I learnt how to start a business from A to Z, and even I am a mechanical engineering student.”

According to the centre, 277 students have taken courses there since last year. Of those, 190 were male and 87 female. More than 50 per cent of them were Emiratis.

Rima Shaban, the centre’s manager, said these programmes would prepare for the launch of an incubation programme that the university will set up next year.

The “incubator” will build start-up companies and develop the university into a world-class research and business centre.

These initiatives aim to bridge the gap between academia and industry, according to Ms Shaban.

Emirati Radhya Mohamed, 22, is studying finance, but her real interest is architecture.

She said many architects working in the UAE come from abroad and leave when the work is done. She wants more support for Emiratis who want to enter the profession.

“I am student of finance but I am really passionate about design and architecture,” she said.

“There is a lot of demand for architects in the emirates. But the country outsources them from the US. So why do we not have our own architects from a local firm here?”

Ms Mohamed wants to establish such a company and hopes the centre can help her realise this dream.

“There are architects outsourced from across the world but no support for the local people,” she said. “I wish to set up my own company that could supply local architects having world-class qualities.

“It could be very challenging but I hope to find the right kind of people who support my idea.”

The centre was established in 2010. A three-week course costs Dh3,000 and a six-week course Dh3,500. Non-students are also welcome at the centre.

The awards were held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

anwar@thenational.ae