MBZUAI: Artificial intelligence from the UAE to the world
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Artificial Intelligence

MBZUAI: Artificial intelligence from the UAE to the world

One of the strongest bets on an AI-driven future comes from the Gulf region, where Abu Dhabi is leading the way with the establishment of the first AI university on the planet.

DUBAI | May Rostom

As a concept, artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a long time, but it edged into the mainstream in the late 1950s. In the last few decades, AI has begun to be perceived as something tangible and beneficial as opposed to an idea confined to the realms of science fiction.

“Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and many more have contributed to AI’s position in today’s spotlight. We have moved from the use of AI in large-scale industrial or ground-breaking circumstances – such as by NASA in space exploration or factory robotics – to commonplace applications such as advertising algorithms or Netflix suggesting what show to watch next,” says Professor Sir Michael Brady, interim president of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI).

Based in Abu Dhabi, MBZUAI has the distinction of being the world’s first AI university.


As the modern world quickly transforms under the profound impact of technology, AI is also evolving rapidly. With the roll-out of 5G and the massive increase in connectivity and internet speeds, there will be more opportunities for a wide range of AI applications that will greatly affect the way people live and work.

“If we are to achieve a world in which our healthcare systems, education, transportation, manufacturing and security are powered by AI, then we must identify, educate, and cultivate talented specialists who have the understanding required to develop next-generation solutions. This need is what inspired the establishment of MBZUAI,” Brady comments.

The professor goes on to explain:

“MBZUAI aims to empower students, businesses, and governments to advance AI as a global positive force. Our ambition is that MBZUAI shall become a graduate-level, research-based, academic institution offering specialised degree programmes for local and international students in the field of AI. [We want it] to play a pivotal role in realising AI as an enabler of innovation, productivity and growth, first in the UAE and [then] across the world.”

The university has already received thousands of applications from students from over 80 countries.

“This is a quite remarkable response! MBZUAI will provide all admitted students with a full scholarship, a monthly allowance, health insurance, a UAE residence visa and on-campus accommodation. MBZUAI will work with leading local and global companies to secure internships and will also assist students in finding employment opportunities.”

The UAE identified AI as a strategic national priority in 2017, making it a key part of a roadmap for its development as a nation. It envisages an AI-driven future through the Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031 and the appointment of the world’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The UAE has committed to deploying AI in strategic sectors of the economy, such as energy, transportation, healthcare, technology and education. Experts now estimate that the contribution of AI to the country’s GDP will rise to nearly 14% by 2030, which would be the largest GDP share in the Middle East.


The future of AI is not a competition between humans and computers. As the creation of people, AI requires human innovation, imagination and talent to develop, and these components are of fundamental importance. There is no AI without human input – people shape its principles, lay down the rules, and determine the ethics for it to adhere to.

“At MBZUAI, we will guide our students and faculty towards addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues through the development and implementation of AI solutions. AI will be used to augment our world, from the way we interact with each other to medical treatments and transportation, right through to how we work, making life better for everyone,” Brady concludes.