Abu Dhabi research hub to set up propulsion centre to boost UAE space ambitions

The Advanced Technology Research Council aims to develop expertise to make spacecraft go faster and further than before

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Abu Dhabi's research and development centre is primed to deliver a major boost to the UAE's flourishing space programme.

The Advanced Technology Research Council is to set up a propulsion centre to help to put the nation on the fast track in the global space race.

The propulsion research centre will embrace advances in technology in an effort to make spacecraft go faster and further than before, as well as improve their fuel efficiency and carbon emissions.

The cutting-edge strategy aims to cement the Emirates' growing status as a leading player in the space sector.

The country has taken huge strides forward in recent years, from putting its first astronaut on the International Space Station to sending the historic Hope Probe on a successful journey to Mars in a first for the Arab world.

A mission to the Moon is set for lift-off next year while a long-term plan to explore the asteroid belt and complete a fly-by of Venus in 2028 is already taking shape.

Now the capital's nerve centre for future innovation hopes to steer its lofty ambitions to even greater heights.

“There was initial scepticism about the ability of a young entity to achieve what many established research hubs have been unable to do – attract global talent and patent breakthrough solutions right here to give the country greater autonomy in the advanced technology space,” said Faisal Al Bannai, secretary general of ATRC, at the opening of the research centre a little over a year ago.

Two other research centres will also be opened as part of a grand vision to drive the country's development for decades to come.

An alternative energy research centre will focus on water security and improving technology applications amid a growing push to convert utility grids to renewable energy.

And building on the UAE’s R&D capabilities in genetic engineering, biomaterials and autonomous devices, the new biotechnology research centre will focus on breakthroughs in health care, food and agriculture.

The state-of-the-art centre already has seven operating labs in areas such as quantum computing – where building of the Middle East's first quantum computer is under way – and cryptography.

Abu Dhabi's applied research initiatives are a critical part of the UAE's efforts to diversify from a reliance on oil exports and develop a knowledge-based economy.

Mr Al Bannai also told of plans to expand the ATRC's applied research pillar, the Technology Innovation Institute.

In its first year, TII's research centres signed 65 global partnership agreements with 37 universities, research centres and industrial stakeholders, and filed five patents, crucial to protecting new ideas and bringing them to market.

The centres employ 101 Emiratis associate researchers and scientists.

The advent of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and more sophisticated cyber security threats means that nations around the world are concerned with developing independent technology – and the UAE is no different.

Designs and innovation key to the progress of the country will be supported by VentureOne, the new commercial arm of the ATRC.

It will set out to ensure the country's best ideas become a reality by bringing them to market at speed while protecting intellectual property.

Mr Al Bannai said the ATRC's plans are in line with the UAE’s Principles of the 50 and Projects of the 50 initiatives, a series of programmes to boost economic growth and prepare the country for a rapidly changing future.

Updated: January 06, 2022, 7:21 AM