May. 6, 2020

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi

Executive Vice President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology

In deciding to introduce new programs or enhance existing ones, Khalifa University of Science and Technology closely follows the government's strategic plans and the Emirate's drive to develop a knowledge-based economy.


Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi is the Executive Vice-President of Khalifa University of Science Technology. He is also the chairman of the board of trustees of the Emirates College of Advanced Education, a chair of the steering committee of the UAE Graduate Studies Research Conference, and chairman of the executive committee of the UAE Advanced Network for Research and Education. He is a member of the Emirates Scientists Council, a member in UAE Water Aid, and a member of the Sanad Aero Solutions. He is also on the academic committee at Zayed University, a member of the Minister of Interior's Award for Scientific Research, a member of the Armed Forces and Innovation Award, and a member of the Hamdan bin Mohammed Award for Innovation in Project Management.

How has the curriculum and university developed to meet the demands of the economy?
Khalifa University of Science and Technology combines the capabilities of three major universities—Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Research; the Petroleum Institute; and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The combined institutions are technology-driven with three specialized schools, including one in petroleum exploration technologies and one in sustainability, green energy, and advanced technologies. Consequently, the combined university offers more comprehensive programs. The university follows closely the economic developments of various sectors in the UAE, the government's strategic plans, and the drive to grow a knowledge-based economy. The university assesses those aspects and either introduces new programs or enhance existing programs to have graduates with the required level of knowledge and skill set. Furthermore, Khalifa University fully supports the UAE's drive toward clean energy through most of the engineering programs that it offers. The degree programs from the bachelor through the PhD cover the various facets of efficient energy generation and distribution as well as sustainable development. Oil and gas remains a major sector of the UAE economy, and Khalifa University is supporting that vital industry with highly qualified graduates in petroleum, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering. In addition to this, we have has strong capabilities in the vital area of ICT. The university aims to build its curriculum further, and to that end, the College of Science has introduced a bachelor's degree in physics. Plans are in place to develop life sciences, as it is underrepresented, although it is crucial for the country's future. We try to link our courses directly with the economy.

What is your assessment of the current level of research in ICT, aerospace and technology, energy and environment, healthcare technologies, and security?
Khalifa University has some of the most advanced faculty experts in AI and blockchain fields, and that is a reason we were one of the Pride of Zayed Award 2018 winners at the UAE Pioneers Awards. We were recognized for being the national hub for scientific research and introducing meticulously planned programs that meet the employment market requirements in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. We have several ongoing research projects in aerospace, energy and environment, healthcare, and data security. In the UAE, the Khalifa University team will be working on various initiatives with industry partners on the defense of smart cities from cybersecurity attacks. Research on blockchain taking place in the Center for Cyber-Physical Systems (C2PS) targets new approaches to ledger programming and the development of innovative blockchain application. Recently, we launched the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems Institute (AI Institute), the third research institute at our university. Focusing on academic programs in AI development, continuous professional development, and research centers, the AI Institute will bring all research in robotics, AI, data science, and information and communication technologies under a single umbrella. In addition, we also launched a program in AI designed for non-computer science and non-computer engineering majors. It will provide students with the required knowledge in AI and related skills to serve the UAE government agencies and the industry. Meanwhile, the Khalifa University Center for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (KUCARS) is emerging as a top international robotics research lab, with around 50 researchers and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, conducting pioneering research in robotics relevant to industry and society. The research is focused on three complementary themes: infrastructure inspection, extreme environment, and industrial applications. Khalifa University is also building a world-class marine robotics facility, with wave and stream generators.

How important is it for students to develop entrepreneurial skills, and how does the university allow students to diversify career paths?
There are core classes that students must take, and we try to instill entrepreneurial thinking, to get students mulling on the feasibility of business concepts from the beginning. Core business and project management skills are integral as is financial management. On the SME side, biomedical is still a growing industry in this part of the world, although the pharmaceutical industry is relatively well developed. Within the biomedical sector, there is the soft and hard side, such as robotics, genes, and genetic research. Remarkably, Khalifa University announced the first-ever licensing of its patented technology to a start-up floated by an alumnus Emirati entrepreneur with a faculty member. This is in line with the university's strategy to look at where the market is going. Notably, our students are applying their research to real-world scenarios and trends, and in that sense, we encourage our faculty to apply for funding from the relevant industry. Equally important, after registering the patent and project disclosures, we encourage faculty and students to open companies, which happens through the Khalifa Innovation Center (KIC). The focus is solely on technology companies with expectations that these companies will bear fruit in the coming years.

How do you engage locally and globally with other universities, and what is the significance of this engagement?
International partnerships are key for any university, and to that end, Khalifa University hosted the Asian Summit of Universities in April-May 2019. Strategic partnerships with Asia have been extremely important, and in collaboration China Scholarship Council (CSC) we have launched the region's first program, enabling up to 30 Chinese students each year to pursue their PhD studies at Khalifa University. Similarly, the university has strong partnerships with the Korean Institute of Science and Technology, with which we have partnered to host a joint research center, the MIT, and the China University of Petroleum-Beijing, in addition to the University of Tokyo. Khalifa University has signed two agreements, one with King Abdul Aziz University to widen cooperation and develop sharing of information in scientific research and another with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) to continue the joint work on advanced research as a valuable resource to support innovation. Khalifa University has signed an MoU with Russia's National Research University, one of the largest technical universities of Russia, to further strengthen the long-term partnership, specifically in innovation and research-related activities. We also have collaborations with several international universities in Asia, Europe and North America.