Masdar Institute Announces Plans to Launch Center for Innovation Systems and Entrepreneurship to Further Develop and Nurture Youth
Abu Dhabi-UAE: 29 April, 2013 – His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, today opened the ‘UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum 2013’ in Abu Dhabi.
During the forum, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, announced its plans to launch the Center for Innovation Systems and Entrepreneurship (CISE) – a new initiative to further develop and spread entrepreneurial spirit among youth in the UAE.
The Forum was jointly organized by Masdar Institute with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, His Excellency Dr. Matar Hamed Al Neyadi, Undersecretary, Ministry of Energy, Waleed Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Chief Operating Officer of Mubadala, and Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, addressed the Forum.
The event gathered more than 200 primary private and public stakeholders in innovation and entrepreneurship to discuss the need for and elements of a healthy innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the UAE.
Thanking the wise leadership of the country, His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan said: “The UAE is committed to creating a knowledge-based society, to encouraging investments in new companies, and to supporting entrepreneurial activities. We recognize the importance of creating the environment that will sustain vigorous growth.
“Innovators always face difficulties initially because they challenge the status quo. New opinions are always looked at with suspicion and usually opposed without any reason because they are not already common. The UAE, on the other hand, is blessed with leadership that has taken the initiative to creating the right environment to support entrepreneurship, making the country the land of entrepreneurs. The UAE offers assistance, advice, support and training to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. Masdar City is one of the best examples in this regard.”
With the support of Masdar and other key stakeholders including globally-renowned universities and academic leaders, the Center will help formulate a new innovation ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurs to form new companies, bringing benefits to investors and eventually to the wider community.
The Center will create new graduate and executive education programs in technical management, entrepreneurship and innovation, while adopting the world’s best practices in these areas to meet local needs.
It will aim to arrange new funding sources and mentoring, act as an incubator and offer other resources, while supporting similar existing programs in the UAE.
Dr Fred Moavenzadeh said: “Innovation remains at the core of Masdar Institute’s mission. As an institution that aims to develop critical thinkers and decision-makers of the future energy industry, we believe only a new ecosystem that addresses the requirements of the community will help nurture the youth. With the support of the country’s leadership, we have initiated several measures to build human capacity and the launch of the CISE is one more step in this direction. We hope the new Center will help us in our efforts to build a new breed of entrepreneurs in the UAE and the region.”
Recent estimates indicate that the UAE’s business-friendly atmosphere is quite conducive to young entrepreneurs. The UAE is ranked fifth among countries globally and first in the Arab world for stability and resilience, according to a global risk report issued by the World Economic Forum in January 2013. The UAE received 3.28 points compared to 3.66 points to Singapore, which topped the list.
Lack of early-stage funds, however, particularly for technology start-ups, is a key factor that has effectively stymied emerging entrepreneurs throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to Dow Jones’s VentureSource 2012, and Ernst & Young’s Globalizing Venture Capital 2011, out of the largest 14 venture capital companies, six were in North America and four in Europe, with only four outside these regions.
The US-based Khosla Ventures, started in 2004 by the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is a cleantech-focused venture capital company that in October 2011 raised more than US$1 billion in a single fundraising round. This fund alone dwarfs the entire venture capital industry of the UAE, of which the largest member may be a US$400 million Dubai-based fund. Such venture capital portfolio companies are an important part of the innovation ecosystem because the individual risk faced by a single entrepreneur is much greater than the diversified, pooled risk faced by a fund that invests in many entrepreneurs.
Other changes to the innovation ecosystem that might encourage young entrepreneurs include increasing public acceptance of startup risk, simplifying laws for business incorporation and exit, and amending bankruptcy laws for startups.
Dr. Bruce W. Ferguson, a faculty member in Engineering Systems and Management at Masdar Institute, will be heading the Center. Offering an overview, Dr Ferguson explained how the Center fits into the goals of Masdar Institute, as well as those related to entrepreneurship, innovation and development of a more supportive ecosystem in the UAE. Importantly, the Center will help increase the rate of innovation in the UAE, with a simultaneous increase in national economic competitiveness and employment. Several faculty affiliates from Masdar Institute will assist the Center in teaching, research and outreach activities.
Dr. Bruce Ferguson said: “Education at the graduate and executive level, particularly for engineers and scientists, is the Center’s focus. An education program that encourages bright young people to form new companies and to create new products and services within large companies will enormously benefit not only investors but the economy in the UAE and the region as a whole.
“At the same time, we will support other changes to the ecosystem that provide new sources of venture capital, mentorship, and other resources, as well as policy changes, to help promote entrepreneurship in the UAE. We thank all the stakeholders for their support and hope the Center will contribute to achieving objectives spelt out in Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 plan.”
Dr. Ferguson is a co-founder and former Chief Operating Officer of Orbital Sciences Corporation, a space technology company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and a co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Edenspace Systems Corporation, a plant biotechnology company developing new renewable energy and environmental products. He is a Trustee of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Dr. Ferguson has been a Vice-Chairman of the Kansas State University Research Foundation and a Fellow at the George Washington University Center for International Science and Technology Policy. He received his Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Harvard University, where he was an honorary Harvard National Scholar and an Editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.
Established as an on-going collaboration with MIT, Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.