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UAE seeks ‘global innovation centre’ status in strategy

The UAE’s ministry of education has released an innovation strategy in an attempt to promote “the development of creative ideas and capabilities”.

While the DisruptED portion of the strategy will reportedly actively seek individual opinions from many heads at the ministry, the overall strategy proposed only cites that it will “prepare and empower employees and students. Photo: Pexels

The strategy will reportedly provide a “technological infrastructure that inspires a culture of innovation”

The strategy, which has been released in line with the government’s overall innovation plan, includes an “innovation platform” that will be known as DisruptED, allowing ministry employees to voice their own ideas for furthering innovation.

“DisruptED aims to generate competencies within the ministry to lead the country into a future that raises the concept of innovation in education to unprecedented levels,” said Hind Al Tair, director of the Department of Science, Technology and Scientific Research and deputy head of the Innovation Committee at the education ministry.

While the DisruptED portion of the strategy will reportedly actively seek individual opinions from many heads at the ministry, the overall strategy proposed only cites that it will “prepare and empower employees and students with advanced skills in various fields”, and will provide a “technological infrastructure that inspires a culture of innovation”.

“Innovation must be at the heart of education and work, in line with the ministry’s strides to create an environment where creativity and critical thinking skills are nurtured, enabling employees and students to come up with innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing society today,” said Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Mualla, under-secretary of the ministry of education for academic affairs.

How this will be achieved, or what will be included in the infrastructure, has yet to be announced.

“We have seen these types of ambitious strategies coming up since at least a decade now and they always emphasise the importance of developing technology sectors and promoting entrepreneurship to diversify the country’s economy which is overall, despite exceptions like Dubai, still very reliant on resource extraction,” Tim Rottleb, a research associate with the Leibinz Institute for the research of Society and Space  – who monitors UAE policy – told The PIE News.

One such plan was the innovation strategy released by the UAE in 2015. While some aspects, such as the EmiratesSkills program, have been successfully implemented, the language used in the paper echoes that of the strategy released in recent weeks.

“NIS aims to promote innovation in the education sector by introducing creative teaching methods and techniques like Smart Learning, as well as designing and developing innovative curricula that equip pupils with the 21st century skills and knowledge in the fields of science, technology engineering, mathematics and arts,” the 2015 strategy said.

“Let’s wait and see if some more significant changes follow this”

“That is also why it is quite difficult to assess how long it might take for something to actually come out of this,” Rottleb commented.

“Let’s wait and see if some more significant changes follow this.”

The announcement, which was made during the education portion of the UAE Innovates 2023 conference, noted that it wants to bolster the UAE’s position as a “global centre in innovation, and spread a culture of innovation on a large scale”, while creating an environment that “nurtures innovative and creative minds”.

“[The strategy] can help diversify the economy and reduce dependency on the oil sector, something that the government has been keenly focused on in recent years,” noted Vanessa Northway, deputy vice principal of learning and teaching at Heriot-Watt Dubai, speaking to The PIE.

“It will mean we can work with the government more closely than ever before to achieve our mutual goals. Historically, innovation and R&D have thrived when business, academia and the government collaborate to turn new ideas into profitable enterprises,” she continued, referring to Silicon Valley as a prime example of this type of endeavour.

The strategy further aims to enhance the position of the UAE as a global centre in innovation, promote the development of creative ideas and capabilities, and spread a culture of innovation on a large scale, creating a national environment that nurtures innovative and creative minds.

It went on to say that proactivity and flexibility was at the heart of the plan – but creativity would be the main tool to “renew and radically transform” education methodologies.

Crucially, the announcement notes that the strategy will aim to follow “the government’s direction” – and achieve the so-called vision of the “country’s wise leadership”.

Rottleb noted that while innovation strategies have been announced over the years – such as the one released in 2015 calling for a “first rate education system” to be developed – transnational education has had just as much impact on the country’s educational standing.

“We believe that working in tandem will help us make a bigger impact”

“The numerous international branch campuses in the country are at least as important as such innovation strategies for creating the image, but their actual impact on innovative economic activities has been rather low, so far,” he noted.

UAE University also recently announced that it had collaborated with 333 researchers from institutions across India – the aim of which, it says, is to enhance its reputation and global ranking. It also referred to the collaboration being founded under its own international research collaboration strategy.

The researchers selected for collaboration were from existing university partners.

“[The low impact] is something Dubai’s government has recognised and was trying to improve over the last two-three years by intervening more strongly in its TNE market than before. If we look at some key indicators, for example summarised by the Global Innovation Index, we see an interesting dilemma: while overall, the UAE does not rank badly in a global comparison, it shows quite low levels of knowledge and technology outputs despite high input levels in terms of institutions and infrastructure,” he added.

Despite this, Northway is confident it will only benefit TNE. The strategy, in her view, aligns with the general benefits of TNE, such as reducing brain drain and pressure on the local education system.

“It fosters a rich learning environment for students that helps them find and develop creative solutions for the complex world we live in.

“This is the same end goal that the innovation strategy aims to achieve; we believe that working in tandem will help us make a bigger impact,” she affirmed.

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