The UAE has established a dedicated academy to help future generations of Emiratis build careers in the growing space sector.
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, and chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, spoke exclusively to The National, to say the learning centre was key to the nation's ambitions in the high-tech industry.
“We use the space academy to build up [young people's] capabilities and capacities from the start and when we start placing them into new areas of development, you also need to ensure you're continuously engaging with the youth programme," she said.
The academy will offer an educational, research and practical environment allowing Emirati students to explore and create new technology, including learning how to design spacecraft and plan for missions.
The project is part of a Dh3 billion ($820 million) space fund that was announced last year.
The academy is based at the space agency's new offices near Dubai World Trade Centre.
Workshops have already been held for dozens of students, with training sessions to begin early next year.
In an interview at Dubai Airshow on Tuesday, Ms Al Amiri told The National it was important for the agency to create opportunities in the private sector.
"We always look at opportunities being created in the private sector – just by increasing the amount of companies in the private sector, you're able to create new jobs," she said.
Workshops for the first batch of 51 students took place in January and training sessions will begin in the first quarter of next year.
The second phase of the workshops had 26 students, with 13 in the third.
Graduates then took part in a three-month space mission experience, which taught them the intricacies of mission planning, subsystems, ground operations, flight dynamics and software tools.
Ms Al Amiri said the fund would also be used to develop some of the country's most crucial space projects, including a mission to the main asteroid belt, a constellation of satellites that monitor climate change and help to fund companies.
“We deliver on programmes through the space fund but you will start seeing companies being spun out, along with furthering the UAE space capabilities in terms of technologies and identifying which technologies we would effectively buy versus develop," she said.
"This is through a science technology road map that is governed through a research, development and commercialisation agenda."
The UAE has set up an economic zone dedicated to space in hopes that start-ups and established companies will set up operations there.
Fourteen organisations are already part of the economic zone.
The space agency hopes the academy will create entrepreneurs who will eventually set up companies and boost the number of jobs in the sector.
"In terms of what the space sector does, having an aspirational space programme creates an amazing ripple effect in terms of interest in opening up new opportunities for youth," said Ms Al Amiri.
"In most of our programmes, we ensure that we continuously have an uptake of youth because you don't want a space industry that ages out.
She said as a result all programmes have requirements to integrate new graduates.