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Dubai Future Foundation Rolls Out Second Batch of University Entrepreneurship Programme with 6 New Universities on Board

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  • Programme launched to support young talent, prepare them for workplaces of the future, instill entrepreneurial skills
  • Step towards accelerating implementation of Dubai University Free Zones Strategy in collaboration with various government entities, universities, research bodies
  • Programme is in line with UAE’s efforts to maximize youth capabilities, draws participation of 12 universities in total

Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), announced the second batch of University Entrepreneurship Programme (UEP), onboarding six new international and local educational institutes to its unique one of a kind programme in the region. With a clear vision statement of “Powering the next generations of founders”, UEP aims to cultivate an entrepreneurship mindset amongst students, encourage risk taking and promote a “Safe to Fail” environment, and build entrepreneurship and design thinking skillsets.

University Entrepreneurship Programme comes in line with Dubai’s ongoing efforts to activate and implement the sixth article of the UAE’s 50-Year Charter. Titled ‘Free Economic and Creative Zones in Universities’, article six focuses on establishing public and private universities as free zones that allow students to carry out business and creative activities, make these activities part of the education and graduation system, and shape integrated economic and creative zones around the universities.

The Charter was launched in January 2019 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This strategy is being implemented in collaboration with various government entities, universities and research bodies.

His Excellency Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, 
affirmed the UAE government’s keenness to instill a culture of entrepreneurship among Emirati youth, in recognition of their pivotal role and active contribution to advancing various economic sectors in the country. He said: “Through adopting innovative business models and proposing novel projects and solutions that contribute to creating new non-traditional economic opportunities, the youth can implement their promising ideas and harness their energies in strengthening the nation’s economy and serving society more efficiently.

His Excellency added: “The UAE government offers an integrated framework of initiatives, projects and programs aimed at empowering young talent in the academic field, specifically university students, with the skills required to establish businesses, and the knowledge and practical tools necessary to shape economic projects that address the evolving landscape. The University Entrepreneurship Programme focuses on employing modern technologies to accelerate the application of entrepreneurial ideas and eases the path for youth to enter the national and global economic system based on solid foundations.”

His Excellency’s statement came during a DFF-hosted event where six universities signed an agreement to join the University Entrepreneurship Programme in the presence of His Excellency Abdulla Bin Touq Al Mari, Minister of Economy, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, His Excellency Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of DFF and a number of government officials, university presidents, faculty and staff.  The universities included, the British University in Dubai (BUiD), Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), Heriot-Watt University Dubai, University of Wollongong (UOW) in. Dubai, Amity University in Dubai, and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Dubai, bringing the total universities in the programme to 12.

In late 2019, six universities joined the programme including Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, University of Dubai, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, American University in Dubai and the College of Fashion and Design in Dubai.

For his part, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, and Deputy Managing Director of the Dubai Future Foundation, reiterated that the UAE government supports national initiatives aimed at empowering youth with the knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to meaningfully channelize their capabilities in the fields of innovation and technology to develop creative ideas that support the country’s economic diversification.

His Excellency said: “The University Entrepreneurship Programme is a unique initiative to build a strong infrastructure in higher education institutions across the country, in partnership with international and local universities. Its goal is to gainfully employ young talent and enable them to benefit from productive government and private sector partnerships through offering them business incubation opportunities to enter the world of entrepreneurship. The Programme supports them in the early stages of establishing their own companies, and guides their efforts in contributing to future priority economic sectors for the UAE.

His Excellency Khalfan Jumaa Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) highlighted, that the 50 Year Charter announced last year by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai presented an integrated method that mapped out the future of vital sectors in Dubai and the UAE, defined frameworks and strategic plans to keep pace with national and global changes, and focused on planning for the future by adopting a forward-looking vision and prepare young talents with the tools that enable them to contribute to the nation’s  economy.

Belhoul said that the prgramme was launched to accelerate the implementation of the Dubai University Free Zones Strategy, and reflects the UAE’s focus in shaping youth capabilities and building the infrastructure to transform educational institutions into scientific research centers and free economic and innovation zones. The programme, made up of the ideation, incubation and acceleration phases, is designed to support university students to start their entrepreneurial journey before graduating by providing them with skills and services that enable them to transform their ideas into well established businesses.

During the meeting, Belhoul confirmed DFF’s cooperation with all its UEP partners extensively during the upcoming period to keep pace with the rapid changes brought about by the pandemic on all educational and economic sectors. Together, they will launch a set of joint projects and initiatives to encourage the spirit of innovation and leadership among students to transform their future and innovative ideas into pioneering companies and projects that contribute to enhancing the future economic sectors in Dubai.

Professor Abdullah Alshamsi, Vice Chancellor of The British University in Dubai said, “We are very happy to work with Dubai Future Foundation and to be part of the Universities Incubators programme, particularly as BUiD features modules which motivate our students to be entrepreneurs and which help them to establish new projects based on innovation and creativity, both contributing to the growth of the UAE’s economy.”

From his side, Dr Yousef Al Assaf, President of RIT-Dubai, said: “We are excited to work with the Dubai Future Foundation on the University Entrepreneurship Programme. The initiative will give our students and faculty unique opportunities to develop new solutions and establish their own startups, thereby supporting the further diversification of the economy. RIT-Dubai runs many initiatives and programs in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship at its new smart, sustainable and connected campus – the premises can be used as an open proof-of-concept lab for our students and the academic community to verify the effectiveness of their solutions.”

Commenting on this occasion, Professor Mohamed Salem, President of University of Wollongong in Dubai, said: “In line with our strategic goal to continue to transform our course portfolio to ensure future graduate success, we are honoured to partner with the Dubai Future Foundation to establish an environment that encourages students to innovate and think ahead. As a university that evolves with the needs of our current times, our new campus provides great modern facilities for the University Entrepreneurship Programme that will provide a modern curriculum to future-proof tomorrow’s graduates.”

Mohammad Abdullah, President of DIDI, highlighted: “The university entrepreneurship programme aligns with what we do at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation; provide students with entrepreneurial skills by enabling them to work creatively and independently within different companies and industries, and empowering them with insights to help them preempt, plan and maneuver through challenges.

He added, “But what we offer to students is more than just theory and practice; we show them the importance of design thinking. We provide knowledge and information to help them combine design disciplines to prepare them for the future jobs market.”

Commenting on the same, Professor Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal at Heriot-Watt University Dubai said, “We are very pleased to sign this MoU today as it means supporting the UAE government’s drive to strategically encourage entrepreneurship amongst University students today. Entrepreneurs serve as the catalysts in the process of economic growth and this MoU now gives us access to the DFF start-up ecosystem and the Future Academy, including funding, investment, mentoring, innovation labs and accelerator facilities, all of which play a role in spurring an entrepreneurial mindset. Heriot-Watt students can now potentially graduate with a business idea or a functioning business as well as a world-class degree and the University itself becomes an incubator for business. Additionally, we are taking this even further by setting up our own in-house incubation facilities in our new campus that will be managed by Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh Business School.”

Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Education Middle East, said: “Under the leadership of the His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we have been given the opportunity to set up a state-of-the-art campus in a region that imparts knowledge to students from all over the world. As an education provider, our goal is to create unique opportunities for our students, while ensuring that they contribute to the country, society and humanity. Dubai Future Foundation’s University Entrepreneurship Programme is a unique and pivotal step towards inspiring a future generation of innovators and leaders.”

The Dubai Future Foundation supervises the implementation of projects launched within the framework of the Dubai Economic Free Zones Strategy. In addition, in cooperation with government and private sector entities, educational institutions and research centers in Dubai and around the world, it works to develop operational plans and study proposals, and to supervise the launch and support of university startups.