Today, the first class of scientists and engineers will graduate from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
It also happens to be World Environment Day, a fitting coincidence with the debut of graduates educated in five master’s courses developed to address the issues of climate change and sustainability.
The institute shows today its commitment to helping Abu Dhabi’s economic transformation into a knowledge economy.
To many, bringing about that change seems an impossible mountain to move. And yet that is what is being done, with major investments in advancing education from the primary through to postgraduate level.
Other infrastructure is being put in place to develop the complete value chain.
We will need innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups – hence the setting up of the Technology Development Committee.
And the Environmental Council, the Masdar Initiative and several other bodies have been set up to develop green enterprises.
The Masdar Institute will be a critical component. Since its academic operations began in 2009, it has focused on both the physical and human infrastructure needed – as evidenced by its first class of graduates, many of whom have already been recruited by industrial enterprises in Abu Dhabi.
But this is just a start. We have a long way to go to provide the necessary manpower and ideas that generate entrepreneurship and technology focused small enterprises.
To that end we are planning our next phase of growth.
We will expand and improve our eight master’s courses in three ways.
We will beef up the existing academic programmes with a greater range of research and study tracks.
And we will set up centres of research excellence, funded primarily by both local and international companies, to pursue research of mutual academic and industrial benefit.
For example, we are currently working with Irena, the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency, to establish a centre for energy, technology and policy for developing economies, to help them build the energy supply infrastructure they need.
Thirdly, we will launch of a master’s degree in Practice Engineering, which we believe is the first of its kind in the region. Modelled on a programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it will place students in industry for at least one semester. That should help align their interests with the needs of business in Abu Dhabi – and increase their employment prospects. It will also be the first course at the Masdar Institute to allow working professionals to study part-time.
The institute is also expanding its internship and outreach programmes. This summer we will offer internships for UAE undergraduate students, who will work with graduate students and academics on their projects.
This academic year will also see the completion of our new campus block, allowing us to take on more students and set up new labs with some of the finest equipment in the world.
All of this, though, pales in comparison to our most critical mission – providing real-world solutions to issues of sustainability.
As our first cohort steps out of the Institute and into the world of work, Masdar Institute will be seeing its ideals put into practice.
It is my hope that our inaugural commencement marks a new era not only for the Masdar Institute, but for Abu Dhabi as a whole.
Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh is president of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.