Abu Dhabi launches first dedicated AI university (and consultancy)

18 October 2019 Consultancy-me.com

Abu Dhabi has launched the world’s first university dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, with the news following Mercer CEO Martine Ferland’s contention that local businesses should be looking to upskill rather than import tech talent.

Officials in Abu Dhabi have launched the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, described as the world’s first graduate level, research-based AI university, which will offer MSc and PhD level-programmes in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. Successful applicants will also receive a full scholarship, along with a monthly stipend and other benefits including health insurance and accommodation.

“AI is already changing the world, but we can achieve so much more if we allow the limitless imagination of the human mind to fully explore it,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, who will also chair the MBZUAI board alongside a number of leading international educators and AI experts. “As such, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is an open invitation from Abu Dhabi to the world to unleash AI’s full potential.”

Accordingly, the university – which won’t welcome its first crop of graduate students until September of next year – intends to work with policy-makers and leading private and public sector organisations to advance AI, including in partnership with the Abu Dhabi-based Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence. MBZUAI further plans to host international conferences, seminars and workshops, bringing together top experts from the global AI community.

While not widely covered in the press materials, MBZUAI has also established a consulting wing; "leveraging the unique expertise of its faculty" to provide a range of professional services to its clients including feasibility studies, benchmarks and assessments, business process enhancement, bespoke training courses, and specific guidance and mentoring for AI start-ups.

Abu Dhabi launches first dedicated AI university

“Following decades of research into machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are now at a turning point in the widespread application of advanced intelligence,” said MBZUAI’s interim president Professor Michael Brady. “That evolution is – among other things – creating exciting new career opportunities in nearly every sector of society. At MBZUAI, we will support students to capture those opportunities and to magnify their contribution to the field of AI globally.”

Incidentally, the MBZUAI launch follows a recent contention by Martine Ferland – the newly installed CEO of global human capital consultancy Mercer – that local companies should consider re-skilling their current employees to manage the onslaught of new technologies, rather than succumb to the temptation of bringing in widely coveted talent. A recent study by PA Consulting suggested that two thirds of the jobs created by AI will require high or intermediate skills.

“Many of our clients in more traditional fields, like insurance, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, are trying to attract the same skillset that big tech does,” Ferland said in an interview with Arabian Business. “Sometimes their value proposition might not be as appealing for people who have studied in that domain. I see a shift in which employers are saying that they better learn to up-skill and re-skill.”

A recent report from professional services firm PwC concluded that artificial intelligence could add $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, while tech consulting and services giant Accenture has pegged that figure at $400 billion in gross value add in just the local production sectors of the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone. Nevertheless, a survey conducted last year by Boston Consulting Group found that regional businesses have been slow to react.