The recent visit of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to the UAE on July 15 was significant in more ways than one. One of the key achievements of the visit was the signing of the memorandum of understanding to establish the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi - Abu Dhabi campus (IIT-DAD), which will be the first IIT campus in the Arab world.
The idea to set up an IIT campus outside India first came up during the virtual summit between Mr Modi and President Sheikh Mohamed in February 2022 when it was mentioned in their joint vision statement. When the two leaders met in June last year, they discussed the project in detail. Their shared vision to bring the IIT campus to Abu Dhabi was formalised as the MoU to this effect was exchanged last month.
Indian Institutes of Technology are centres of national prestige and have been leading research, development and innovation in India for the past six decades. IITs have been one of the most important pillars of modern India's journey – from a crisis-riddled, broken country that it was before gaining independence in 1947, to becoming the world's fifth largest economy in 2023.
IITs are known not only as centres of cutting-edge technologies and innovation but the 23 branches of them across India have harboured academic excellence and are places where young people have the opportunity to shape their futures. It is because of this calibre that IITs are known to produce some of the finest and most successful Indians, whether in business, research or innovation and many of the country's bureaucrats and politicians are also graduates of IITs.
IIT-DAD aspires to bring the original traditions and hallmarks of IITs to Abu Dhabi. The new campus will also incorporate certain local characters to make IIT-DAD more suited to the local conditions and to become unique in its own domain.
As the UAE is preparing to host the climate summit Cop28 in November, IIT-DAD is gearing up to play its due role in making Cop28 a success, even though it is still in its foundation phase. With this idea, the first course offered by IIT-DAD will be a master's programme in energy transition and sustainability.
The course will commence from January 2024 from its interim campus in Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. IIT-DAD will also offer courses in AI, mathematics, computer science and engineering, health care, and other disciplines of engineering, science and the humanities. It will start offering other bachelor's, master's and PhD programmes from September 2024. The institute will be a tribute to the strong, centuries-old people-to-people relations between India and the UAE.
The leaders of both nations have also envisioned that the entire region will reap the benefits of this landmark project. It is with this idea that IIT-DAD aspires to be a truly global campus, with a diverse mix of Indian, Emirati and other nationalities. The admission policy of the new campus will also be aligned with the vision of the two leaders.
The close collaboration between academia and industry are key for the success of research, innovation and overall benefit of the UAE and the region. It is heartening to see the enthusiasm of all stakeholders who are playing their part in making IIT's Abu Dhabi campus a reality.
While the project has blessings of both leaders, it is fortunate to have a dynamic and committed team from the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge as well as faculty members of IIT Delhi faculty, who have spent several weeks to ensure the project becomes operational and upholds the standards and qualities for which IITs are known around the world.
The maths immersion programme, which was concluded last week, received a turnout that was more than what was expected. Some of the prominent IIT-Delhi faculty members visited Abu Dhabi solely for this programme. They delivered lectures on mathematics, the base of today’s research and innovation, and gave Emirati students a glimpse of academic life at an IIT. The overwhelming response from the Emirati students was a reflection of how eager they are for courses to start. We are confident to see this becoming a reality sooner rather than later.
The IIT campus in Abu Dhabi will not be just another institute in the UAE. It promises to be history in the making. On one hand, it brings together the academic and research excellence of IITs and on the other, the advancement and vision of the UAE. This provides IIT-DAD with the necessary ingredients to become a global centre of learning, innovation and leadership.