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Masdar Institute’s iInnovation Keen to Lead Active Dialogue on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 02 June, 2014 – Since its launch earlier this year, the Institute Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iInnovation) at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology has been focused on developing new programs and partnerships to leverage the UAE’s strengths with other innovation hubs across the world.

It is helping to develop a new Masdar-centered innovation hub in the UAE, learning from the best of other innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and building mutually beneficial collaborations between academia and industry. 

As part of its mission, iInnovation seeks to contribute useful new ideas for discussion with government, industry and other stakeholders, in response to the UAE government’s active leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship. During the coming year the Center will contribute creative proposals for new programs in response to the UAE government’s increasing willingness to experiment and seek innovative solutions. The Center plays a key role in translating technology developed by the four other Masdar Institute Research Centers (iCenters) into commercial products, services and processes.

Masdar Institute’s graduate engineering students already show entrepreneurial instincts. Recently, a Masdar Institute MSc student won the Khalifa Fund’s Technopreneur competition for his technology-focused business concept. Two students have also formed startup companies, while five students have won national or regional business plan competitions. Additionally, two students have been selected to compete in the second round of the Khalifa Fund Ibtikari Competition.

One of the most exciting developments of the year for iInnovation was the formation of a new multi-year collaboration with BP to develop new ways to accelerate technology innovation in the UAE. The collaboration with BP has already accelerated the introduction of new student scholarships, seed grants and seminar speakers. The new scholarships are expected to further encourage pre-graduation student start-ups.  Two new iInnovation seed grant programs for faculty, one conducted jointly with MIT, will focus on translational research with commercial outcomes. At the same time, the iInnovation Laboratory (iLab) offers space and basic facilities for small faculty-student teams internally working on technology translation.

Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, said: “The research and innovation drive at Masdar Institute assumes significance not because it is a novelty but more so, it is a necessity considering today’s economic and social realities. The UAE leadership recognizes this and supports us in continuous innovation that remains relevant to the wider community and targets future generations. We hope the initiatives undertaken by iInnovation will encourage young entrepreneurs and help more technology start-ups to be established in the UAE.”

Dr. Bruce Walker Ferguson, Head of iInnovation and Professor, Engineering Systems and Management, Masdar Institute, said: “At this stage, iInnovation is more action-oriented than research-oriented, with most of our work directed to developing new programs and partnerships. We are proud of the new BP Innovation Scholarships, which represent an innovative way to integrate entrepreneurship and education by encouraging students to create new companies before they graduate.”

In March 2014, the Center completed a case study on a UAE-based sustainability company Keep It Clean. Authored by Dr. Ferguson along with Noora Ahmad Abdulrahman and Yusra Ahmad Abdulrahman – two UAE National interns from the University of Arizona  –  the case study provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of sustainability-focused entrepreneurship in the UAE.

Dr. Ferguson added: “We have also considered the question of how to create a UAE-optimized entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports the formation of new companies. The UAE Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, co-sponsored by Masdar Institute and MIT in 2013 and also co-sponsored by BP in 2014, helps to identify how the UAE can ensure growth in entrepreneurship and innovation. Given the UAE’s potential to play a dynamic role in global innovation, I foresee tremendously interesting and productive new relationships over the next year.”

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