UAE launches search for great minds to tackle Middle East brain drain

Millions in funding will be given to further research under the initiative

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A search to identify and support the best thinkers in the Arab world began on Wednesday, with millions of dirhams in funding available.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, compared the Great Arab Minds project to the Nobel Prize.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives wants to identify intellectuals, researchers and professionals in fields including physics, maths, data science, economics and higher education.

Each year for five years, six of the brightest people will be given millions of dirhams in funding to support their work.

Tens of thousands of our youths emigrate looking for better opportunities - ignorance cost a loss of more than $2 trillion to the Arab world
Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs

The initiative comprises six categories: Natural Sciences (Physics and Chemistry), Medicine, Literature and Arts, Economics, Technology and Engineering, and Architecture and Design.

Applicants must be Arab or have made a contribution to the Arab world.

"Like the West have their Nobel Prize, we have the Arab Minds prize. This is our Nobel Prize," Mr Gergawi, who is also secretary general of MBRGI, said at the Museum of the Future in Dubai.

Saeed Al Nazari, head of judging committee, said: “If you look at the region over the past 100 to 200 years, you will see that it has had a huge influence on the scientific scene worldwide.

"You can see that to date — Arabs have impacted technologies, science physics, you name it.

"This initiative recognises that and revives it. It will inspire people to think big and for the world to see their influence. This award is the biggest in the region.

“We are focusing on Arabs in the Arab world, but are also open to Arabs who have had a contribution and influence to the Arab world."

The committee will be overseen by global auditors KPMG.

Over the years, there has been a brain drain in the Arab world, with talent moving to the West, Mr Al Gergawi said.

"Tens of thousands of our youths emigrate looking for better opportunities — ignorance cost a loss of more than $2 trillion to the Arab world," he said.

Last year, a Dh100 million ($27.2m) fund was set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for the initiative.

Museum of the Future will be used as a base for the programme, which will be overseen by four Cabinet ministers.

This month, the Arab Youth Survey results showed a strong desire among young people, particularly in North Africa and the Levant, to move abroad to escape cycles of poverty and joblessness.

The UAE was voted the best place to live in the survey, but the rest of the list comprised nations from outside the region including the US, Canada, France and Germany.

More than a third of young Arabs (35 per cent) say the rising cost of living and unemployment are the biggest obstacles facing the region, with unemployment next at 32 per cent.

Updated: September 30, 2022, 5:29 AM