Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Chairwoman of UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Advanced Technology, during her keynote address to the ‘Space Business Forum’ at Expo 2020 Dubai on Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE’s space industry can become a key driver of economic growth for the next 50 years, the chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency said on Saturday at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, who is also Minister of State for Advanced Technology, made her remarks during her keynote address to the ‘Space Business Forum’ at the Expo.

She said the UAE Space Agency will work more closely with the private sector to ensure startups, entrepreneurs and new companies have the opportunity to enter the ‘race to space’.

Planetary mission as a catalyst

Al Amiri said: “From the future of travel and the next frontier of business innovation to creating an environment that encourages sustainable growth, space represents the next frontier of innovation. Our mission to explore Venus and the Asteroid Belt between Jupiter and Mars will serve as a catalyst for progress and an opportunity to transfer knowledge to the private sector.”

She added: “It will support the creation of new Emirati aerospace companies and contribute to the growth of a competitive and attractive ecosystem to consolidate the UAE space industry’s status a global player. We will work hand-in-hand with the private sector to ensure scientific and technical expertise from our interplanetary missions is accessible, whilst simultaneously creating a robust regulatory and business framework to consolidate our innovation-driven economy.”

Key question

The forum welcomed business leaders, astronauts, cosmonauts, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators and government leaders from around the world to explore a central thematic question, ‘How do we safely and productively explore new frontiers?’

t provided an opportunity to discuss issues such as the future of space travel, the next frontier of business innovation, the growing need to commercialise space applications and technologies, using satellites to monitor climate change and conservation, enabling space explorers of tomorrow, and the role space innovation plays in our day-to-day lives.

Dh4 million contest

Also on Saturday, the UAE Space Agency launched a new competition offering up to Dh4 million in funding for next-generation proposals that address climate change and food security. Scientists, entrepreneurs, academics, and innovators seeking to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges are invited to participate and accelerate the UAE’s knowledge-driven economy.

The competition was announced under the umbrella of the Space Analytics and Solutions (SAS) programme, during the Space Week, in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), which is also responsible for food and water security.


Using data from space

It aims to find technically feasible, scalable and innovative ideas using data gathered from outer space to create services that support agricultural or environmental practices. This could be using data to map and monitor greenhouse gas emissions or analysing soil moisture levels to boost crop yields.

Two projects will be selected from the competition. They will each receive up to Dh2 million in funding, technical support, assistance from leading experts, and help to secure commercial partnerships and reach customers. In addition to developing cutting-edge applications for the future economy, the program aims to enhance the competitiveness of the UAE space industry, encourage public-private partnerships, upskill talent and strengthen the national space ecosystem.

Seeking the brightest stars

Al Amiri said: “Our competition aims to find the best and brightest academics, entrepreneurs and scientists to create applications that tackle climate change or food security. We are seeking competitive proposals that are original, feasible, scalable and backed by meticulous research and analysis.”

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “We are proud to partner with the UAE Space Agency in launching the [SAS] program that will advance space science and expedite our journey towards a climate-resilient, food-secure world.”

Proposals should be submitted before the deadline of January 15, 2022. The top six will be invited to pitch in front of a committee of experts in February, with the top two selected as the winners. The competition will recognise proposals based on a variety of factors including the professional experience and academic background of the individuals, as well as the originality and viability of the idea.

Space Week is one of 10 thematic weeks at the Expo aimed at finding collaborative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Running during the six months of Expo Dubai 2020, each one focuses on specific issues, such as climate and biodiversity, health and wellness, urban and rural development, travel and connectivity.

High-level talks

Meanwhile, the UAE Space Agency on Saturday held high-level bilateral talks at the Expo with a delegation of senior government and business officials from the Republic of Estonia to accelerate collaboration and the transfer of space-related technologies and services.

Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, met with Kristi Talving, Deputy Secretary General for Business and Consumer Environment at Estonia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications at the Estonia Pavilion.

Taking place on the sidelines of Space Week, the meeting explored the potential for greater collaboration in all space-related fields.

(L to R) Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, Director-General of UAE Space Agency, with Kristi Talving, Deputy Secretary General for Business and Consumer Environment at Estonia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, at the Estonia Pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

Al Qubais said: “Estonia and the UAE have an important bilateral relationship that is taking on a new dimension as we enhance collaboration in all space-related fields. There are great opportunities for enhanced cooperation in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the fourth industrial revolution, outer space research, satellite production and the expansion of entrepreneurship and private enterprise. Our meeting provided a constructive platform to build on our shared ties as we create a competitive, innovation-driven economy for the next 50 years.”

Estonia, a full member of the European Space Agency since 2015, took a giant leap forward in the industry this year. On January 11 it was announced that Estonia would provide stereo cameras to Maxar Technologies for NASA’s Artemis lunar programme. The cameras will provide an important part of a major new mission to send humans back to the Moon in 2024 and one day establish a lunar settlement.

Hungary delegation

The UAE Space Agency also held bilateral talks with the Hungary delegation at the Expo to tighten cooperation in the growing global space industry by boosting spatial research and astronautic activities.

Al Qubaisi met a high-ranking delegation of senior officials from Hungary, led by Dr Orsolya Ferencz, Ministerial commissioner for Space Research at MOFA and Trade of Hungary, to create closer ties in space research, Earth surveillance, technology utilization and knowledge transfer.

Meeting between UAE Space Agency and the delegation from Hungary, held at the Hungary Pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

The meeting took place at the Hungary Pavilion during Space Week. The two officials discussed a wide range of issues including Hungary’s ambition to send an astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2024, the European country’s plan to launch a scientific satellite into space and develop an on-board measurement system that will be installed on ISS.

They also discussed the UAE’s new mission to explore Venus and the Asteroid Belt between Jupiter and Mars.

Al Qubaisi said the new mission will support the creation of Emirati aerospace companies, develop new talent and enhance cooperation with global research centres as part of the UAE’s vision to promote growth and human progress for the next 50 years.