Masdar Institute-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Research Projects Driving Innovation in The UAE

September 21, 2018


Abu Dhabi-UAE: 15 April, 2015 – Nine flagship research projects with direct relevance to the priority sectors specified in the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy, jointly undertaken by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), were the focus of a conference organized by the two institutions in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

The flagship projects featured at the Masdar Institute-MIT Research and Innovation Conference 2015, held at the Masdar Institute campus, include research into water desalination and purification, electrical power grids, regional climate modeling, solar photovoltaics, bio-refining, coupled solar thermal power and cooling systems, and energy storage a. Faculty researchers from both institutions also presented innovation focused projects being conducted as part of the Masdar Institute and MIT Innovation Program that is a collaboration between Masdar Institute and the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. The event was attended by a large number of government, private and academic sector stakeholders in the UAE innovation ecosystem.

Nearly 50 students are involved in the flagship collaboration research projects that have resulted in three invention disclosures, 63 publications, and 43 conference proceedings.

Welcoming the gathering, Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, said, “Through these research collaborations, the UAE is further developing its R&D infrastructure, science and technology manpower, and the intellectual capital required to attract investment and start-up enterprises. he country is also working in alleviating the legal ambiguities with respect to insolvency.”

Other MIT and Masdar Institute faculty who spoke at the conference included: Dr. Vladimir Bulovic, Associate Dean for Innovation, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, MIT; Dr. Duane Boning, Director, MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program (MIT & MICP), Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT; Dr. Steve Griffiths, Executive Director, Office of Institute Initiatives, Masdar Institute; Dr. John Lienhard, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT; and Dr. Bruce Walker Ferguson, Head of the Masdar Institute Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iInnovation).

Dr. Bulovic highlighted the role of nanotechnology and its wider implications in sectors including energy, health, life sciences, quantum sciences, electronics, and manufacturing. He discussed the key role that nanotechnology plays in the market for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, which is set to become a US$20 billion industry, and that the technology has significant potential for saving electricity, reducing food wastage, and in medical applications.

MIT, seeking to remain at the forefront of science and technology, is at present constructing ‘MIT.nano’ – a 200,000-square-foot building that will house state-of-the-art cleanroom, imaging, and prototyping facilities supporting research with nanoscale materials and processes, Dr. Bulovic added.

In his address, Dr. Griffiths said, “The UAE has all the ingredients to become one of the most innovative countries globally within the next seven years if the technology infrastructure, enabling services, regulatory framework, and investment structures that are outlined in the UAE National Innovation Strategy are established.”

Providing an overview of Masdar Institute’s research strategy and outcomes to date, Dr. Griffiths revealed that the research-based institution at present has six registered US patents and 54 patent applications pending, while receiving 94 invention disclosures from its faculty and students. He also highlighted energy, water and engineering systems research projects being conducted with partners in the aviation, aerospace and defence sector, which is a key component of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision for 2030.  The projects include a pilot facility that is being constructed at Masdar City as part of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) and collaborative work with Tawazun, STRATA and , Lockheed Martin.

Speaking about water and food research at MIT, Dr Lienhard highlighted work that has been done to tackle challenges related to the drying up of inland seas, algal bloom, rapid population increase, and climate change. These included food safety through Big Data, a graphene membrane desalination technology that is currently being commercialized, a leak-detection technology from the MIT spin-off Visenti Pte Ltd, and Massachusetts-headquartered Gradient Corp’s technology for remediating of water in the unconventional oil and gas sector.

He also shared information on Cambrian Innovation, an MIT spin-out, which focuses on technologies that extract clean energy and clean water from wastewater, reducing costs and eliminating the burden of wastewater management for food and beverage companies.

Participants, numbering over 300 industry experts and stakeholders, walked away from the event with a greater understanding of the best-practice approaches to delivering innovative research projects with direct, positive implications for the UAE.