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Leveraging applied research to bring industrial innovation to the UAE

Hazzaa Al Abdouli
Expert View
Filed on July 15, 2018 | Last updated on July 15, 2018 at 09.46 pm
Leveraging applied research to bring industrial innovation to the UAE
The challenge set by the Emirates Technology and Innovation Center for Emirati engineers is to build their future while they build the future of the UAE.


Emirates Technology and Innovation Center on a mission of developing next-generation Emirati research, development engineers

Training, educating and enriching the UAE's people in disciplines and industries of strategic relevance for the country's present and future is an ongoing challenge for the country, and it is a worthy challenge that the Emirates Technology and Innovation Center (ETIC) is proud to be contributing towards.

The ETIC is a Khalifa University-based research entity with a mission of developing the next generation of Emirati research and development engineers. Our centre was established in 2014 by a consortium that included the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, with the aim to build local applied research capacity and cultivate Emirati engineering talent, while bringing innovations to key UAE sectors.

We achieve this goal serving as an intermediary between researchers and industry, aligning research conducted by Emirati graduate students at Khalifa University with the needs of the ETIC's industry partners. We pair masters students with industry-relevant research projects that deliver valuable outcomes to industry which also train them to become innovative problem-solvers, ready to meet the needs of the country's key sectors. We also promising prime student research projects for prototype development by working directly with selected students at an early stage in their thesis proposal development, to ensure their intended research outcomes are aimed at producing relevant solutions for a specific industrial problem.

As the director-general of the ETIC, I have set goals to turn our centre into a technology hub where academia seamlessly bridges with industry to serve the needs of the UAE's governments in identified sectors. We are guided by UAE Vision 2030 and are inspired by the bold leadership of the nation in our work to guide, mentor and enable talented our Emirati engineers to bring meaningful innovation in sectors of great importance to the UAE. The challenge we set for them is to build their future while they build the future of the UAE.

We use applied research to advance include electro-optics imaging, communication and electronics, autonomous systems, information systems and cybersecurity. Within those technologies, vision systems and radio frequency devices are a few products among many others being researched through an ambitious and disciplined applied research and development strategy set by the ETIC.

A paper on one of our collaborative projects recently received the 'Best Paper Award' at the 2018 UAE Graduate Students Research Conference. The paper, entitled SAR Automatic Target Recognition Using Deep Learning, was by masters students and research engineers Maha Al Mufti, Esra Al Hadhrami and Bilal Taha, with the guidance of KU associate professor of computer engineering Dr Naoufel Werghi. The project deals with the detection and the classification of a broad range of targets using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images. SAR images are acquired from radars that can be mounted on airborne or space-borne devices and can create high-resolution images in all-weather conditions. They have many surveillance and reconnaissance applications. Providing the radar operator with reliable information in all weather conditions allows for a more efficiently supported decision-making process.

Another innovative outcome is a novel wideband transmitter developed by an ETIC researcher and KU masters student, which can receive and transmit high frequency radio waves at a much lower cost and physical footprint than traditional radar technology. The transmitter was developed by Ahood Abdulla Ali Al Junaibi, and offers the potential to enhance the performance of detection, surveillance and other radar-based applications, as well as accelerate the development of the UAE's 5G communication networks. A prototype of the technology was unveiled at the 2017 IEEE Asia Pacific Microwave Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The transmitter employs a unique type of phased array antenna that does not rely on costly and bulky mechanical phase shifters, and can detect objects on multiple bands of super-high frequency radio waves between two and six gigahertz. This high-frequency band of the radio spectrum is used for most radar transmitters, wireless local area networks, mobile phones, and satellite communications, and includes the band on which the next generation of wireless communications networks, known as 5G wireless, will operate.

A phased array antennae is a group of antennaes whose emitted signals are combined to enhance a radar's ability to 'see' objects, which it does by sending out radio waves that bounce off targets and return to the radar's receivers. The phased array is steered to transmit a strong signal beam in a desired direction. However, manual steering of the phased-array antennae requires expensive phase shifters. Al Junaibi's wideband-phased array transmitter avoids such phase shifters, bringing the cost and physical footprint of the radar system down.

This dynamic research result is just one of many produced by the ETIC as part of our mandate to deliver industry-relevant and locally-developed high-tech products to increase the competitiveness of UAE industries while preparing the UAE's engineering innovators. We believe this approach will bring long-term benefits to the UAE economy in the form of intellectual property rights, technology innovation and indigenous engineering leadership. We invite organisations looking to use applied research to achieve innovative outcomes to partner with us to leverage the talent and passion of the UAE's youth and the research infrastructure at Khalifa University, to accelerate the UAE's economic transformation.

The writer is the director-general of the Emirates Technology and Innovation Center. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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