NAT 191016 MBZUAI ABU DHABI -13-1571398022020
Mohammad Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi. Applications are already open, with classes expected to start in September 2020. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The world’s first dedicated artificial intelligence (AI) university in Abu Dhabi will help to meet with future job demand in the AI sector, said leading UAE based business executives in technology.

Announced on Wednesday, the Mohammad Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) will be based in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, and will offer both masters (2 years) and PhD degrees (4 years) for local and international graduate students. Applications are already open, with classes expected to start in September 2020.

With both the global and UAE’s economy expected to be heavily impacted by the growth AI, the UAE is aiming to be at its forefront as it looks to prepare the next generation of students to be ready for this technological leap.

In a report issued last year by PWC, Middle East, the group said that AI would contribute $9.6 billion to the UAE’s economy by 2030, accounting for over 13 per cent of its gross domestic product.

“The UAE is widely regarded as being a nation that is constantly moving forward to become the hub for innovation and technological supremacy in the region and the announcement of the Mohammad Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is a testament to this vision,” said Fady Richmany, senior director and general manager at Dell Technologies UAE.

“We are confident that this university will accelerate the learning potential of students and enhance their skills towards becoming the future leaders of digital businesses across multiple industry sectors,” he added.

“Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are set to revolutionise work and create new ways to prepare and connect people to more rewarding careers,” he said, pointing to the potential of AI.

Jackson Liu, head of Middle East, North Africa and Europe, BIGO Technology, said the firm was on track to hire 50 AI professionals this year, highlighting the job growth in AI. “At BIGO, we are on track to hire more than 50 AI professionals this year in the Middle East region alone, and look forward to being able to access talent from an enhanced global pool. BIGO strongly endorses the fact that artificial intelligence is going to be a major part of our lives in many ways in the future, and in fact, we are already seeing its impact today,” he added. “The UAE’s investment in its future workforce, by setting up the MBZUAI, shows a nation that is serious about establishing itself as a provider of quality and relevant talent,” he said.

Liu also said that the company was looking forward to collaborating with the new university bringing in its own expertise, as it has already done with other world renowned institutions such as Stanford University. “As a recognised innovator in AI applications, we already work closely with schools such as Stanford, Peking University, and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. We are keen to learn more about how global AI players such as BIGO can collaborate with this new university,” he added.

Alaa Youssef, managing director — Middle East, SAS, who said the company was planning to invest $1 billion in AI research and development over the next three years, called the university a model for preparing for the jobs of the future. “This new high-tech university, with its graduate level AI programmes, is a model for investment in developing skills for the jobs of the future. As leaders in analytics and AI, we understand the value that a strong, skilled workforce can have not just on the economy, but also on transformational programmes that governments and industries undertake,” he added.

“SAS is proud to lead the industry’s outlook towards the potential of AI, and are preparing for the future by investing $1 billion in AI-focused R&D over the next three years, covering the technology and the skills needed,” he said.