World Economic Forum: UAE signs deal to host research centre of the future in Dubai

With the main hub in San Francisco, and other forum run facilities in China, Japan and India, Dubai will be the only Middle Eastern centre

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The UAE is set to lead the region’s contribution to the development of new technologies such as precision medicine, artificial intelligence and blockchain after an agreement with the World Economic Forum to set up an advanced research centre in Dubai.

This first Affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution was launched on Tuesday – the first day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos – in the presence of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

It is the Crown Prince’s first time participating in the Davos meeting. More than 3,000 members of governments, chief executives, entrepreneurs and experts are in the Swiss town this week for the forum’s 49th annual gathering which aims to revamp globalisation for the future, taking into account technology’s growing influence. The UAE has sent a large delegation, headed by Sheikh Hamdan and including eight ministers.


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On Tuesday, Mariam Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, took part in a discussion about meeting the challenge of malnutrition around the world. The Minister of State for AI, Omar Al Olama, will be part of a session about crafting national policies to harness the benefits of the technology. On Wednesday, Ohood Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Well-Being, will join a dialogue on new ways to measure economic progress beyond traditional data points like GDP.

Globally, economies are being rapidly transformed by what the forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technologies including the Internet of Things, automation and the adoption of AI.

The new research centre will be run by the Dubai Future Foundation, of which Sheikh Hamdan is chairman of the board of trustees. Specialised project teams, including experts from the UAE and the forum’s network, will run pilot programmes in AI and blockchain. Their results will inform international efforts to develop policy, protocol and governance systems for these technologies, the forum said. Applications of precision medicine and the study of the potential of genome sequencing, will also be developed at the centre.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future and managing director of the Dubai Future Foundation said the centre’s research and projects will cement the UAE’s “position amongst the world's best countries, and will support its Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy aimed at achieving a competitive economy based on knowledge, innovation and the application of emerging trends.”

The Dubai centre is part of a broader strategic co-operation agreement between the UAE government and the World Economic Forum. In November, they jointly issued a policy framework for personal data.

The forum’s centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the main hub is in San Francisco with other forum run facilities in China, Japan and India – aim to help governments, companies, civil society and experts from around the world to collaborate to ensure the use of technology maximises the benefits for as many people as possible and reduces the risks from the misuse of it, such as cyber-crime or data fraud.


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“The addition of affiliated centres to the network will accelerate our time to impact and ensure that the wave of innovation benefits the many, not the few”, said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution network has already helped Rwanda write airspace regulations taking into account drone usage. It has also provided corporate executives with toolkits for the use of blockchain.