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We are hearing a lot about it these days. So then, what exactly is the knowledge economy, and why is it so important to the UAE?

The Oxford Dictionary defines the term as an economy in which growth is dependent on the quantity, quality and accessibility of the information available, rather than the means of production.

For the UAE, developing a competitive knowledge economy has been one of the pillars of the National Agenda, which sees the Government continuing to focus on building the nation to becoming the economic, tourist and commercial capital for more than two billion people worldwide. To achieve the goal, the UAE Government set itself a series of 12 key parameters, one of which happens to be building on the share of knowledge workers in the labour force. A space where UAE’s best universities are expected to make impact.

Role of research

Experts are of the view that research and innovation in the globally connected world that we live in today are helping build the knowledge economies that will power sustainable growth in the future. Universities in this regard could play stellar roles in the process by investing in more research and science programmes within their curricula, say UAE university heads.

Meghavi Banerjee, Director, Strategic Alliances, Lincoln University Business Management (LUBM), believes the inclusion of more research and science programmes within the curriculum could help support the UAE even further in its efforts to build a knowledge economy.

Meghavi Banerjee

“Research is key function that leads to development in countries,” says Banerjee. “the UAE remains committed and has spent up to Dh10.4 billion from the federal budget in developing the education system. According to the MOE strategy, the plan is heavily focused on values, one of them being science, technology and innovation.

“The government has strategically designed its plan, and we are now experiencing enhanced scientific research policies, space programs, STEM implementation, educational reforms and investment in research intensive institutions.”

Ready for the future workplace

Explaining why the university education curriculum in the UAE needs to be at par with leading countries focusing on research and science in order to build a knowledge economy, Banerjee adds: “The students need to be ready for the future workplace, and education should encourage in shaping bright minds by building curiosity, constant learning and critical thinking. In this instance, curating a structured course or multiple courses by universities to aid students on their journey to integrate into a knowledge economy is very important.

Xavier Duran Martinez Director, MBA Programmes, Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, feels the institution is on the right path to supporting the UAE’s ambitions on building a knowledge economy.

Elaborating on the new research and science programmes that the University of Manchester has included in recent years to help in the UAE’s efforts to build a knowledge economy, he says, “Manchester has built a global reputation for world-class research and the Middle East Centre has undertaken or supported projects in the UAE. These include a Covid-19 Response Report (with Oxford Business Group) mapping the positive impact of UAE investment in health, technology and education in reducing the impact of C19 and moving to recovery.

“The Centre also undertook the first research into the GCC market for executive education (with Dubai International Academic City), and a research programme with The Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government on the topic, Creativity and Innovation in the Dubai Government at Individual, Team and Organisational Levels.”

Trailblazing efforts such as these, initiated by UAE universities in close collaboration with industry, academia and government think tanks, it is hoped will help the nation power towards building an innovative and adaptive knowledge economy with a strong R&D ecosystem in the months and years to come.