SRTI Park is the first major milestone of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises (AUSE). Can you give us a short introduction of the development?
SRTI Park, an initiative of AUSE, was established in 2016 by royal decree of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE, and Ruler of Sharjah. SRTI Park aims to develop and manage an innovation ecosystem within a free zone that promotes R&D and supports enterprise activities and the triple-helix collaboration of industry, government, and academia. The park focuses on six verticals: water technology, digitalization, transport and logistics, environmental technology, renewable technology, and production, design, and architecture.
Phase I is expected to initially accommodate 200 companies. What are the highlights of this achievement?
Phase I of the park comprises three inter-linked buildings over some 60,000sqft and will house the park's headquarters, laboratories, innovation centers, and a host of start-ups, SMEs, and anchor companies that focus on contributing to the R&D and innovation culture in the region. Future phases include a center of excellence, a technology museum, a hotel, a convention center, and housing units.
How do you see the innovative R&D sector growing and improving here?
It is not surprising that Sharjah has achieved a leading position on the international map. The Emirate has made education and science the foundation for progress and development in line with the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.
How is increasing digitalization becoming an increasingly hot topic affecting development in Sharjah?
The park is unique as a nucleus designed to emulate the path of economic diversification, making the partnership between the public and private sectors an important strategic priority in order to increase spending on R&D projects at all technical, social, and economic levels. The main features of the park are its solid pillars of technological progress in the service of community development.
What sustainability projects are you launching at the park?
We make use of natural resources, from solar energy and salt water to humidity to provide a source of irrigation for agriculture and to ensure the success of pilot projects by focusing on the importance of innovative farming methods and their many benefits compared to conventional methods of irrigation. The research site specializes in the development of sustainability and natural resource conservation technologies, offering innovative technological solutions for agriculture through the use of infrastructure in urban areas such as balconies, houses, and terraces. This includes the tower farm, a vertical agricultural system. The project introduces a new concept of sustainable agriculture through the practice of using the principles of ecology, which is the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment. One of the most important research areas at Merlin Digital's Sustainable Technologies Research Site is for a sustainable water project, more specifically a solar desalination still that produces 10 times the amount of pure, distilled water per square meter per day from any source of contaminated water—seawater, groundwater, and others—compared to classic solar stills. The idea is to re-engineer solar distillation, a basic technology that humans have known for thousands of years.
What are your main goals and objectives for 2019 and beyond?
The park is a milestone in the pursuit of scientific research to the benefit of society, economy, and humanity. It is based on an ambitious vision to enhance the UAE's and Sharjah's presence as a key player in shaping the digital revolution, technological transformation, and economic openness, offering a competitive edge to attract leading companies and the best minds and creative talents to undertake research and innovation activities that support overall development.