In line with its core mandate to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, ASPIRE, the technology program management arm of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), is funding three Virtual Research Institutes (VRIs) in Abu Dhabi Universities. The cumulative AED200 million+ funding across five years, marks a significant investment in research and innovation development, and it highlights the commitment of the Abu Dhabi government to build world-class research in priority sectors for the emirate.
Two of the funded VRIs will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). The Abu Dhabi Precision Medicine Virtual Research Institute (ADPMVRI), led by Professor Milos Ljubisavljevic, Hub Director, is focused on transforming biotechnology research in Abu Dhabi to ensure a positive and sustainable impact on healthcare through increasing longevity and enhancing the quality of life. The VRI will partner with Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi, and the Cleveland Clinic, as well collaborate with Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina, among others.
The proposed VRI seeks to drive home the urgent need for a holistic healthcare system focused on precision medicine - whereby diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment are customized to meet individual patient need based on scientific principles. In partnership with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority (SEHA), the VRI will develop a set of research projects that address the major diseases and drive the improvement of clinical care in Abu Dhabi.
Hosted at UAEU, the second VRI - Abu Dhabi International Virtual Research Institute for Food Security in the Drylands (ADIVRIFSD), led by Hub Director Dr. Elke Neumann, aims to achieve food security in arid regions. The VRI will team up with Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Agriculture, Food Safety Authority, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, as well as University of California, Davis and Wageningen University to contribute to innovations of significance in protected urban plant cultivation, urban agroforestry, aquaculture, insect, and algal farming.
In addition, the VRI’s activities will create cutting-edge data platforms and simulation tools to track animal and food-borne diseases and antimicrobial resistances, as well as forecast future consumer needs and trends across global and national food markets.
The third VRI, with a focus on sustainable energy production, storage, and utilization, is to be hosted by Khalifa University and will develop advanced renewable energy and sustainable technologies. The VRI will collaborate with New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi University, as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology, among other international entities.
The core R&D efforts of the proposed VRI cover cutting-edge technologies spanning areas of sustainable power generation, energy storage, renewable energy integration, smart grid, and demand-side energy efficiency that are crucial for Abu Dhabi’s sustainable development. Led by Dr Samuel Mao, Hub Director, the VRI will lead to policy recommendations that promote Abu Dhabi as a pioneer in energy sustainability.
Speaking on the VRI Program funding, Dr. Arthur Morrish, CEO of ASPIRE, said: “We are pleased to collaborate with Abu Dhabi’s universities that are key incubators of our next generation of local talent and help shape tomorrow’s scientific leaders. With the growing focus on sustainability in all spheres of life today, we are now able to support world-leading research in these priority areas. We look forward to seeing the long-term impact the VRIs will have, and to their recommendations that can enhance the quality of life of the local population with far-reaching implications for healthcare, food security, and sustainable energy production within and beyond our borders.”
Dr. Ray O. Johnson, CEO, TII, said: “We are proud to contribute to boosting Abu Dhabi's leadership and reputation in agricultural innovation, sustainable energy practices, and food safety. The proposed VRIs will significantly contribute to improving the emirate's excellent healthcare system, find new strategies to ensure food safety, and implement schemes to bring about sustainable change through renewable energy. With each VRI, we hope to develop meaningful synergies with higher education institutions across the globe, and generate strong industry engagement, leading to enhanced visibility for these programs.”
Following the launch of ATRC in October 2020, ASPIRE has started designing several grand challenges and international competitions in the advanced technology domain. ASPIRE is a key partner and title sponsor of the “XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion” Competition, funded by Ghadan 21, Abu Dhabi's accelerator program. The competition aims to find solutions to end global hunger and strengthen food security.