Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Abu Dhabi's AI university names first provost ahead of January launch

Dr Ling Shao said he is looking forward to shaping the next generation of leaders in the AI sector

The world's first dedicated artificial intelligence university in Abu Dhabi has appointed UK academic Dr Ling Shao as its executive vice president and provost.

Dr Shao will head up academic affairs and research at the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, which is due to open in January.

The university said Dr Shao's "undeniable expertise" in the rapidly-developing artificial intelligence sector made him the prime candidate for the senior position.

Dr Shao spent nearly a decade in the field of AI at higher education institutions in the UK, including as a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, chair professor at Northumbria University, and chair professor at the University of East Anglia, where he also served as director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab.

As a result of his work, he has published over 400 scientific papers and was selected as a ‘Highly Cited Researcher’ by the Web of Science in both 2018 and 2019.

In addition to his new role at the institution, Dr Shao will also act as chief executive and chief scientist of the Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence (IIAI), an Abu Dhabi-based international research organisation in fundamental and applied AI that is partnered with MBZUAI for the supervision of PhD students and curriculum development.

“With his impeccable track record and undeniable expertise in the field of AI, Ling is an ideal choice for MBZUAI’s leadership team," interim president Michael Brady said.

Dr Shao is looking forward to driving the growth of artificial technology in the Emirates.

“As the first establishment of its kind to focus solely on AI education and research, MBZUAI will play an important role in the future of our societies. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to guide the next generation of AI leaders,” Dr Shao said.

Dr Ling Shao, executive vice president and provost at MBZUAI. Courtesy photo
Dr Ling Shao, executive vice president and provost at MBZUAI. Courtesy photo

AI is expected to add 14 per cent to the world’s gross domestic product by 2030, equivalent to $15.7 trillion (Dh57.7tn), according to business consultancy PwC. Experts estimate that AI’s contribution to the UAE economy will match the global increase of 14 per cent – the largest GDP share in the Middle East – in the same time frame.

Last week, the university announced it had pushed back its start date for its inaugural class to January 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The university is in the process of vetting thousands of applications from more than 80 countries. The first admissions letters will be sent to applicants "soon", the university said in a statement on Sunday.

Construction on the campus, located in Masdar City in the capital, is due to be complete in the coming weeks.

Once open, the university will provide all admitted students with a full scholarship, plus benefits such as a monthly allowance, health insurance and accommodation. MBZUAI will work with local and global companies to secure internships, and will also assist students in finding employment opportunities.

The institution has also said it will aim to engage policymakers and businesses around the world so that AI is harnessed "as a force for positive transformation".

Graduate students can still apply to MBZUAI via the university’s website for 2021 registration.

Updated: May 10, 2020 06:30 PM

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