Abu Dhabi launches new AI company in push to become a global tech hub

AI71 seeks to democratise access to artificial intelligence and is built on the UAE's Falcon large language models

Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi attends launch of AI7I. Wam
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Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Research Council has launched a new company focused on artificial intelligence, as the emirate boosts efforts to become a global hub for the emerging technology.

The new entity, AI71, seeks to democratise access to AI and is built on the Falcon large language models developed by the council's Technology Innovation Institute.

AI71, which will be taken to the market by the council's commercialisation arm VentureOne, was formally launched by Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

The company is designed to cater to key economic verticals. In its initial phase, AI71 LLMs for the medical, legal, education and government fields will be launched, with "many others" to come, Faisal Al Bannai, secretary general of the council, said at the launch.

"By creating AI71, [the company] becomes a major part of driving the digital economy, of driving AI use across multiple sectors. So it increases our efficiency and ability to be much more productive and competitive globally," he told The National.

"We will not be shy in our objectives, we will not be humble in our goals. We are determined to be a key player in shaping where AI is going globally. AI71 will play a pivotal role in this journey."

AI71 is teaming up with key local entities as part of its initial partnerships, including with the office Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, who signed an agreement with Mr Al Bannai at the event.

Other UAE organisations that have signed up include the Department of Government Enablement and Abu Dhabi's start-up ecosystem Hub71.

AI71 is also partnering with global majors including Amazon Web Services, consultancy PwC, US IT management firm World Wide Technology and data company CNTXT.

"These pivotal agreements that are about to shape our collective future, explore our offerings and envision a future where AI is for all," Mr Al Bannai said.

The AI industry, long used in businesses and society, was brought forward by the emergence of ChatGPT, created by Microsoft-backed company OpenAI.

The praise for the technology, due to its advanced conversational skills, launched a race between the biggest technology companies and personalities, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Oracle and Elon Musk, owner of social platform X.

The UAE has made strides in the industry, having already unveiled major large language models – the underlying algorithm that powers generative AI – to advance efforts to become the industry leader.

The TII has launched its Falcon flagship LLM, its advanced iteration, and Noor, which at the time of its launch last year was the world’s largest Arabic natural language model, to grow generative AI capabilities in the region.

In August, Abu Dhabi AI company G42's unit Inception, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Silicon Valley-based Cerebras Systems launched Jais, an open-source bilingual Arabic-English model.

Generative AI is expected to hold immense economic potential. Gulf countries are expected to reap about $23.5 billion in economic benefits by 2030 as investments in generative AI continue to grow, PwC unit Strategy& Middle East said in a recent report.

"Data that we have as a country in our ecosystem, large organisations and large sectors is the fuel in the AI era," Mr Al Bannai said.

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"We can use it as an ecosystem in a very efficient way to really grow our capabilities in this space."

AI71's models will ensure the privacy and security of user data, and will be under the control of clients, Mr Al Bannai added.

"You are giving access to your most sensitive data that you have so that you can get analysis back ... this is an area where we want to make sure we bring back control to the owner of the data when it comes to the new era of AI," he said.

Updated: November 28, 2023, 3:32 PM