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World’s first AI Univ introduces new model of academia and research

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), in Abu Dhabi, is the world’s first graduate-level, research-based artificial intelligence university. Professor Sir Michael Brady, Interim President, MBZUAI, shares how the institution is focused on exploring the potential of AI, including breakthrough innovations that could potentially change the way we live and work in the future

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What is the vision and mission strategy of MBZUAI?

The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) was established as the world’s first graduate-level, research-based artificial intelligence (AI) University, with the aim to empower students, businesses and governments to advance AI as a global force for positive progress. It complements the ambitions of Abu Dhabi, and the UAE as a whole, to use the transformative potential of AI to support economic diversification.

Our intention through MBZUAI is to evolve interdisciplinary, collaborative research, and development capability in the field of AI – and of course, educating students to become future leaders and innovators is a significant component of this. Students at MBZUAI will be provided with the depth and breadth of knowledge that will enable them to use AI as a tool to foster knowledge creation and economic growth.

The establishment of the university was inspired by the vision of its namesake, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. HH Sheikh Mohamed has continuously advocated for and empowered the development of human capital, not just in the UAE but beyond.

How do you foresee the institution leading cutting-edge innovation in AI, in the region?

As the first of its kind in the world, MBZUAI stands out from all other educational institutions. Additionally, MBZUAI seeks to be more than a university, by introducing a new model of academia and research in the field of AI.

We offer advanced educational programs to talented students from around the world who want to expand their post-graduate knowledge by studying the core components of AI – Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing – at either Master’s or Doctorate level. As well as state of the art facilities and equipment and a world-class faculty, students at MBZUAI will have access to some of the world’s most advanced AI systems, through the university’s partnership with the Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence. The university is governed by a Board of Trustees comprising members who are on the cutting edge of international AI development. MBZUAI is also partnered with several prominent companies, institutions and establishments to further AI innovation and research.

All of these components come together to make MBZUAI a world-class establishment for exploring the potential of AI, including breakthrough innovations that could potentially change the way we live and work in the future.

What kind of industry – academia partnerships are you looking at for driving collaborative research at your institution?

MBZUAI seeks partnerships with public and private sector entities, with the goal of using AI research and innovation to address and overcome some of the most pressing issues our society faces.

Research at MBZUAI is centered around several themes, and we seek partners whose projects and objectives align with these. The themes include Services and Quality of Life, such as how to use AI to improve services offered by the public and private sectors; Industrial and Manufacturing Technologies, including how AI can be used to improve productivity, increase the quality and efficiency of industrial and manufacturing processes; Future Game Changers, which includes research into how AI can support advancement in emerging sectors to ensure economic prosperity and the continued betterment of our lives, and, last but by no means least, Sustainability of Vital Resources and Environment, which will see research into how AI can be used to optimize the consumption of essential natural resources, such as fresh water and fossil fuels, and how to contribute towards conserving the environment for future generations.

How are you looking at the India market for the same, considering the fact that there are so many companies and startups doing ground-breaking work in AI and machine learning, across sectors here?

MBZUAI is eager to explore partnership possibilities with like-minded institutions, establishments and companies of all sizes from around the world.

Do you also have plans for partnering with academic institutions in India, to extend the reach of your programmes?

My affiliation with India dates back to 1987. I travelled to India numerous times and visited The Indian Institute of Technology campuses and Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta, where I gave one of the commencement addresses. I also supervised several PhD thesis.

With regards to MBZUAI, we have recruited several faculty members from India. At MBZUAI, we aim to collaborate with best-in-class universities around the world. We have nothing in the pipeline at present in terms of a formal partnership, but this is certainly something we could explore in the future.

There are many industry experts who believe that India will be the AI garage of the world, in the near future. Your views regarding this?

India’s technology sector is thriving, and is building upon its reputation for innovation in the field of AI and beyond. The government invests considerably in building technological capacity, which will undoubtedly pay off in the years to come – especially considering that India has a young population and high penetration in terms of connectivity, which will contribute towards establishing future generations of leaders to whom digital innovation comes naturally.

Any other significant factors you would like to highlight?

Artificial intelligence has a significant role to play in building a more sustainable future, from strengthening economies to conserving resources, and, as has been demonstrated this year in the battle against Covid-19, in helping to maintain our health and safety.

As a global community we only stand to benefit from collaborative efforts that seek new ways to use AI to resolve the world’s challenges, as well as the unique challenges faced by each country. This is something that the leaders of the UAE have long recognised, which has resulted in the country being positioned at the forefront of harnessing the power of AI in both the public and private sectors. With the establishment of MBZUAI, Abu Dhabi is cementing its position as not only a leader in AI education and advanced technology research, but as a partner for the world in developing AI capabilities.


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