Microsoft opened an artificial intelligence centre for energy in Dubai - its first in the world - to develop technologies that could be used globally.
The centre, known as Microsoft Energy Core, was inaugurated virtually on Wednesday and is based at the company’s office in Dubai Internet City. The US technology giant is aiming to start developing AI-focused technology from this centre by September.
"It's a global initiative ... Microsoft's first centre to focus solely on energy and sustainability ... majorly we will be exploring AI and cloud computing," Omar Saleh, Microsoft's Middle East and Africa head of energy and manufacturing, told The National.
“Currently, the foremost priority is to develop new AI technologies that could be used in [the] energy sector globally.”
Microsoft has joined forces with ten global partners to run the centre. They include Honeywell, Rockwell Automation, ABB, Sensia, Accenture, Aveva, Emerson, Schlumberger, Maana and BakerHughesC3.ai.
“To ensure we are on the same page and pursuing ethical principles of AI, we have constituted an industry board … we will meet every quarter to evaluate the developed prototypes, discuss challenges and bring fresh ideas on the floor,” Mr Saleh said.
The technology giant, whose local clients include Emirates Airlines and Dubai Airports, did not reveal the amount it has invested into setting up the centre.
“There has been a big push and investment from Microsoft's side. There is huge demand for AI solutions in [the] energy sector and that is giving us confidence,” Mr Saleh said.
Microsoft's move comes as global tech giants address digital transformation needs within the energy sector. Spending on energy-related AI is expected to reach $7.78 billion (Dh28.6bn) by 2024, according to a report by BIS Research in January.
Companies such as IBM, Amazon, Google and ABB are already selling digital solutions to the biggest oil and gas companies in the world.
In one of the industry’s first collaborations, announced last year, the US oil and gas major Chevron teamed up with the world’s biggest oilfield services firm, Schlumberger, and Microsoft to accelerate the creation of digital technologies.
In November last year, state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company announced a 10-year partnership with Honeywell to use its monitoring platform as it embarked on a major predictive maintenance project.
Besides the AI centre that was first announced in November last year, Microsoft also launched an AI Academy to provide digital skills to energy industry workers
It also has agreements with global universities to educate undergraduate and post graduate students through its AI Academy.
“The academy’s aim is to train people to address the most pressing challenges faced by the energy sector – most of them pertaining to sustainable operations and responsibly dealing with the environment,” said Mr Saleh.
“Currently we are conducting online classes and workshops due to the Covid-19 restrictions … many individuals have enrolled for these virtual sessions that are already up and running.”
Microsoft has also committed to ambitious environmental sustainability goals. By 2030, the company aims to be carbon negative and by 2050, it aims to remove all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975.
The Microsoft Energy Core is "part of our unwavering commitment" to "reshape the future of the energy industry and drive a positive impact in our communities", said Samer Abu Ltaif, president of Microsoft MEA.