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Dubai Future Foundation’s University Entrepreneurship Program in Full Swing Despite Global Pandemic

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Abdulaziz AlJaziri, Deputy CEO and COO of DFF
  • In alignment with the UAE’s efforts to continue progress and implement distant learning through the use of technology
  • An output of the sixth article of the “50-Year Charter”
  • 7 students received financial support for ideas submitted to enter the second phase of the program

Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), announced its assessment of ideations phase, the last step of the ‘Ideation Phase’ of the University Entrepreneurship Program. The initiative comes as part of the UAE Government’s efforts to activate and implement the sixth article of the 50-Year Charter, published in January by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The program 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. The program consists of different phases that students can join throughout their years of study. These phases include ‘ideation’, ‘incubation’ and ‘acceleration.

The American University in Dubai (AUD) and through its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (AEIC) was the first to activate this phase, where 7 university startups will showcase their ideas to an assessment panel through a virtual pitch. As part UAE’s effort to equip the nation’s academic institutions for smart learning, DFF and AUD are to deploy technologies to continue the phases of the University Entrepreneurship program in light of the current health conditions (COVID-19).

Amid global precautionary measures, UAE moves to e-learning as 22,000 teachers have been qualified to tutor online, according to Arabian Business. Additionally, the UAE’s Ministry of Education has trained more than 42,000 teachers and academic staff to be well-versed in online tutoring. As part of these efforts, Dubai Future Foundation’s contribution sees the cooperation with several universities, academic institutions and research centers around the world to develop future education mechanisms and continue building future skills of the youth.

The ideas presented include a virtual African art gallery, a wireless bus application, a portable solar generator, a connect app; an application that connects business with classrooms through live projects, online doctor and pharmacy applications for patients, accident protective balloon gear for motorcycles project and disposable straightener. The students developing the ideas spent the last couple of weeks finetuning and finalizing the pitching through online tools.

Abdulaziz AlJaziri, Deputy CEO and COO of Dubai Future Foundation, said: “Today’s initiative comes in line with the directives and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to empower the youth and activate the role of the academic institutions in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship among students by establishing partnerships between universities, public and private sector.”

He added: “Dubai Future Foundation continues its workstreams despite all the challenges the world is currently living in mitigating COVID-19, and the impact of the virus across work sectors. Therefore, our team was keen to implement modern technology to continue the work as usual as well as support and enable our stakeholders, especially the innovative youth with creative ideas to find solutions for future challenges.”

The Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the American University in Dubai, Dr. Sabrina Jopseh said: “In line with its unwavering commitment to student success and innovative learning, The American University in Dubai (AUD) is proud to be collaborating with the Dubai Future Foundation and various industry leaders in running the first virtual ‘Pitch’ in the UAE showcasing the 7 startup projects of nineteen AUD students.   The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have had an unprecedented impact on populations around the world.  However, during these challenging times, AUD is firmly committed to education continuing without disruption and capitalizing on existing technology to empower young people, build bridges between academia, government and industry, and promote a spirit of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and, above all else, hope for an exciting future.

Shamma BinTouq, Project Manager of the University Entrepreneurship Program at DFF said, the program will continue to work closely with all of its university partners, to allow for talent and entrepreneurship to grow amongst students as well as to provide them with the necessary tools and mentorship program to enable them to bring their ideas to life.

The pitch drew the participation of representatives from Dubai SME, TECOM Group, In5, AUD academic staff, and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA). The evaluation committee included prominent names in the industry and academia such as:: Mr. Essam Disi, Director, Strategy & Policy Department (SME), Ms. Hamda Khalil, Acting Director, Credit & Underwritings Department (SME), Mr. Saeed Al Nofeli, Head of In5 (Tecom), Mr Ghanim Bin Lahej Al Falasi, Senior Vice President, People Happiness and Innovation Corporate Services, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, Dubai Government, Mr. Paul Epping, C0-CEO EQXponential Innovative Disruptor & Entrepreneur, Mr. Ayman Alawadhi, Group Managing Director, The Corporate Group, Dr. Assaad Farah, Dean, School of Business & Associate Professor, AUD; Dr. George Kachamy,  Director of the SAAD Research, Innovation and Design Center & Associate Professor of Architecture, AUD

These experts are tasked to oversee and provide constructive feedback on all pitched ideas, as well as  product positioning, brand, business model, and evidence of prototype. Successful pitches will receive a fund provided by Dubai Small and Medium Enterprises (Dubai SME) to enter the incubation phase. From here startups will develop their ideas into a minimum viable product (MVP) ready to demonstrate on demo day held twice at Area 2071.

Last year, the University Entrepreneurship Program was launched to accelerate the implementation of the Dubai University Free Zone Strategy in collaboration with various government entities, universities and research bodies. Universities adopting the program include the American University in Dubai through its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (AEIC), Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, University of Dubai, Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University, and the College of Fashion and Design in Dubai.