The UAE and China are partners in innovation

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the world’s third largest oil company, was awarded stakes in two of Abu Dhabi’s offshore concession areas following the signing of agreements with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), March 21, 2018, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Adnoc
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the world’s third largest oil company, was awarded stakes in two of Abu Dhabi’s offshore concession areas following the signing of agreements with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), March 21, 2018, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Adnoc

In a world that is evolving at an unprecedented pace, driven by new technologies that continually disrupt the way we live and work, developing a culture that fosters innovation is no longer optional. It is essential for countries, if they are to reach their economic potential in a modern, highly competitive world.

The UAE and China are keenly aware of this new reality and have chosen to collaborate in order to innovate. In so doing, China-UAE relations are fueling progress in both our countries and indeed globally.

Take for example our recent partnership in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccines developed in record time in China were used at scale across the UAE to achieve the most comprehensive vaccination drive in the world. This partnership led to the creation of a Covid-19 vaccine production facility in the UAE – the first such manufacturing plant in the Arab world. It will soon export life-saving vaccines to other countries. In short, the rapid response of our countries to a crisis has led to opportunity, enhanced the healthcare and life science sectors of both nations and delivered benefits far beyond our borders.

We are leveraging this same spirit of collaborative innovation to help solve other pressing global challenges, such as climate change. In 2017, China and the UAE came together to create the world’s largest single site solar power plant, Noor Abu Dhabi.

With 3.2 million solar panels installed across 8 square kilometres, Noor Abu Dhabi came on line two years ago and will ultimately produce 1.2 gigawatts of clean electricity. Building on this achievement, our two countries will soon set a new benchmark in the renewable energy space, with the Al Dhafra Solar Project, which will be almost twice the size of Noor Abu Dhabi, and will set a record low tariff of $1.35 cents per kilowatt hour.

Al Dhafra Solar Plant. WAM
Al Dhafra Solar Plant. WAM

What we are seeing is this: regardless of whether it’s developing biotechnologies, renewable energy solutions or other sectors enabled by advanced technologies, when our countries collaborate to innovate, costs come down, economic opportunities go up and society benefits. And when you collaborate on the scale that China and the UAE are, the benefits can extend to all corners of the globe.

In the UAE, we have learnt that innovation does not happen in a vacuum. Innovation thrives when the best minds come together to work on a single problem. This is why we encourage cross-border co-operation, because together we are smarter, more agile and more resilient. This new era will not be without its fair share of challenges. Pushing the boundaries of innovation requires courage, boldness and a readiness to fail on the road to success.

This can-do spirit, which sees challenges as opportunities, has transformed the UAE’s hydrocarbon economy into a centre of excellence for renewable and new forms of energy. The same spirit turned our fishing and pearling villages into world class logistical hubs and allowed the UAE to send the first probe from the Middle East to Mars.

By continuing to work together we can reinforce the resilience of our economies

As we look to the future, the UAE is refocusing its entire industrial strategy around innovation, leveraging the power and potential of breakthrough technologies. We are doing this to reinforce the resilience of our core industries and to expand into knowledge-intensive sectors. With this new direction, there are numerous opportunities for our countries to continue to collaborate and innovate across traditional and emerging industries in creative and commercially viable ways.

In the energy sector, we should explore the potential of zero carbon hydrogen, by matching our know-how with China’s growing demand for more energy with less carbon emissions.

In pharma, biotech and health care, we should build on our experience with Covid-19 to create new medicines and cutting-edge treatments that can save lives and create valuable biotech businesses.

In agri-tech, we should share knowledge to develop seeds that can survive arid conditions and sustainable farming methods that can feed a growing global population while minimising environmental impacts.

As the UAE cultivates this culture of collaborative innovation, we are prioritising other critical enablers that include ensuring a reliable pipeline of investment into R&D, setting aside capital for commercialisation and setting up supportive policy and legal frameworks.

As such, the UAE is redesigning its R&D and commercialisation strategy to focus on policies, priorities and co-ordination, making sure that areas of most promise are incentivised first. At the base of this strategy is encouraging an environment that stimulates cutting-edge thinking within our academic institutions that can ultimately translate scientific breakthroughs into commercially viable scale-able industrial solutions.

That is why we launched the world’s first university dedicated to the pursuit of artificial intelligence, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence. In short, we are establishing a more efficient ecosystem to turn ground-breaking ideas into marketable products.

Home to over 200 nationalities, the UAE has always been open to diverse cultures and this diversity is one of the key ingredients of the UAE’s progress. If countries are to fulfil their potential, deepening global partnerships is crucial.

By continuing to work together we can reinforce the resilience of our economies, improve and protect the lives of our people, and accelerate global progress. With this objective firmly in mind, we will continue to extend an open invitation to China and the world to join us on this journey of value creation and innovation.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber is Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Adnoc managing director and group chief executive

Updated: June 6, 2021 06:46 PM

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