In February, the Dubai Future Foundation launched a think tank and funding platform called the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Accelerated Research.
One of the Foundation’s ambitions is to become a knowledge hub at the intersection of government and the technology sector. The team at the new centre focus on providing useful advice for decision makers and helpful information for the public. As our CEO said in April:
“At Dubai Future Foundation our mandate is to identify the challenges of tomorrow and turn them into opportunities today for our nation and for humanity at large. The Centre for Accelerated Research will be tackling complex issues such as space settlement, digital economics, artificial intelligence and more.” His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation
We launched with a programme focused on finding the best ideas wherever they are. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Settlement Challenge provided grants to researchers working on novel ideas for how we could live and work in space. The challenge aligns with the UAE’s ambition to be among the leading nations in space technology and exploration.
The selection process was powered by a crowdfunding platform called Guaana. All participants were asked to review 3 other proposals while their own submissions received 3 reviews in return. The most popular are then funded. This novel mechanism for research funding hopes to improve transparency, interaction and participation.
36 projects were funded through the challenge, costing AED 2 million in total. We received over 260 research proposals from more than 200 universities in 55 countries. The successful applications included a study on Mushrooms on Mars: A Subsystem for Human Life Support from Rutgers University in the US and Greywater based aeroponics from the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland.
Now, as these projects move ahead, we’re building our team in Dubai. We’ve also commissioned a collection of research reports looking at issues in digital and technology policy.
Ultimately, we will have four streams of work:
- Analysis by our team of researchers & experts
- Co-produced projects with partners
- Commissioned commentary and papers
- Crowdsourced funding for a series of government challenges
How we hope to have impact
We’ll be prioritising work that can best support public and private sector decision makers or that can have the greatest impact on current debates.
We’ll also, when possible, try to reach a larger audience, supporting the development of a knowledge ecosystem in the UAE and beyond. This includes experimenting with novel research methods and communication channels.
However, the Centre is not aimed at funding technology development directly, and won’t include a science laboratory; we leave that to our colleagues in the RLab, the Dubai Future Accelerators and Area 2071. We concentrate on developing original thinking and making sure the right insights are delivered at the right time to those who need them.