Government and business elites to be trained at Mohamed bin Zayed University of AI

Twelve-week programme will accelerate development of future-focused industries

A new executive programme from MBZUAI will cater to the UAE's key decision makers.  Khushnum Bhandari/ The National
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Abu Dhabi's artificial intelligence university will train the UAE's government and business leaders under a new programme, equipping the country's decision makers with practical skills and a professional network to tap into the cutting-edge technology.

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence will begin the 12-week MBZUAI Executive Programme on October 23.

The course will offer online practical courses and seminars on the business, ethical and policymaking dimensions of the AI industry, taught by some of the top leaders in the field.

AI is central to the UAE's economic growth agenda, according to Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and chairman of the MBZUAI Board of Trustees, adding that it has the potential to unlock new growth from established industries and pave the way for new business models and technologies.

The overall aim is to "[empower] decision makers in all industries to harness the benefits of AI in forging the future success of their respective organisations", Dr Al Jaber said.

"This depends not only on world-class scientific research but also on close collaboration between all stakeholders, be they government, business, investors, the scientific community or the public."

The plan to train the nation's elite in AI comes amid a broader push by the UAE government to set the national agenda for economic growth over the next 50 years.

On Sunday, the UAE unveiled its Principles of the 50, which lays out the economic, political and developmental road map for the next half century, with massive investment planned to support it. Emirates Development Bank has allocated $1.36 billion (Dh5bn) to fund projects by Emiratis in new and crucial sectors. Another $1.36bn from the bank aims to transform industry towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution over a period of five years. The aim is to add Dh25bn to the country's GDP.

A digital skills push is also under way, following a recent announcement to attract or train 100,000 people in computer coding through a visa programme and Emirati upskilling initiative.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said this was just the first step.

"We don't want to be a local player in the digital economic landscape – we want to be the world in one country, shaping the future," he said on Sunday.

The new MBZUAI programme is part of that push.

The first cohort will be made up of about 40 senior executives, with six courses covering an introduction to AI, machine learning and the economy, visual and lingual cognition, the future of robotics, and AI ethics and policymaking.

"AI’s ability to analyse vast amounts of data and do it at remarkable speed is unparalleled," MBZUAI president Eric Xing told The National.

"When decision makers are knowledgeable, they can implement AI specific to their sector, with MBZUAI university faculty as expert consultants. We are in an ideal position to help translate complex business challenges into topics for research and development."

Participants will undergo a practical and immersive curriculum that goes beyond conventional classroom instruction by combining traditional coursework with interactive modules, engaging forums, high-level networking opportunities, and seminars on AI’s business, ethical and policymaking dimensions.

More broadly, by extending AI access to leaders across the economy, the MBZUAI Executive Programme supports the UAE’s goal of becoming a global AI leader.

“Integrating AI-based processes and expertise will allow homegrown tech companies to leap ahead in their development," Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, said. "The MBZUAI Executive Program is an ideal initiative to help UAE-based SMEs maintain their competitive edge and optimise their operations across the region and beyond.”

The programme is designed to cater to all industries and economic sectors, he added.

Professor Xing will be teaching, alongside Sir Michael Brady, professor emeritus at University of Oxford; professor Daniela Rus, director of MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Professor Michael Jordan, the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor at University of California, Berkeley; and Dr Kai-fu Lee, chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, among others.

Updated: September 08, 2021, 7:28 AM