The 54 successful grants were selected from over 320 proposals across two award programs, The Abu Dhabi Award for Research Excellence (AARE) and The Abu Dhabi Young Investigator Award (AYIA). The number of grants given were 12 in Life Sciences, 7 in Aerospace, 10 in Education and Social Sciences, 7 in ICT, 4 in Material Sciences & Manufacturing, 6 in Energy and 8 in Environment. This high number reflects the ongoing drive by ADEK to collaborate with research communities to accelerate the growth of the Abu Dhabi research and development ecosystem and position the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as an innovation hub.
The winning submissions include a proposal by Rafael Song at NYUAD to design an artificial brain component on a chip, which will allow researchers to study autism spectrum disorders and enable research clinicians to develop treatments for this syndrome. Basam Ali of UAEU won a grant to develop novel protein therapies for chronic diseases that are endemic in UAE populations. Muath Al Hasan of Al Ain University won a grant to develop novel space communications solutions that will aid the aerospace sector. Syed Aftab of Abu Dhabi Polytechnic, winner of the Young Investigator award, will work on developing a smart aircraft system modeled on the humpback whale for increased maneuverability and efficiency in unmanned aviation applications such as remote sensing, search and rescue and disaster relief. Faisal Al Marzooqi of Khalifa University won a grant to develop a novel photothermal mechanism to remove toxic and undesirable heavy metal waste from water which often ends up in the brine byproduct of desalination.
The proposals were judged by the ADEK research team along with international peer reviewers from leading research institutions around the world with criteria including research quality and originality, feasibility of the proposal, relevance to strategic sectors in Abu Dhabi, qualifications of applicants, potential impact on the sector and human capital development.
Additional consideration was given for collaboration with industry, inter-institutional and STEM education engagement.
The Abu Dhabi Award for Research Excellence (AARE) marked its fourth round of funding this year. It is open to all full-time faculty in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) geographically located within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi Young Investigator Award (AYIA) in its inaugural year awarded funds totalling one million Dirhams to 6 outstanding research proposals in targeted thematic areas. This competitive funding program is open to young researchers in Abu Dhabi who are within six years of obtaining their terminal degree (PhD or equivalent).
Research funded by the programs is expected to advance scientific and technological development within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, as well as develop meaningful partnerships between Abu Dhabi scientists and leading academic and industrial collaborators, both nationally and worldwide.
HE Sara Musallam, ADEK chairperson said: “We have been entrusted with a healthy R&D fund from the Ghadan 21 government accelerator program, aimed at improving Abu Dhabi’s competitiveness in the knowledge and innovation sector, enabling us to realize the vision of a Knowledge Based Economy and we hereby reaffirm our commitment to achieving our mandate. Our team of peer reviewers noted the increased quality of research proposals received, reflecting the maturing research ecosystem in Abu Dhabi. The ability of the Emirate to attract high quality researchers is fundamental to the development of critical mass in priority research areas, and the 2019 AARE and AYIA funding programs are a fundamental building block in the further development of research excellence in Abu Dhabi Universities.”
Dr Habiba Alsafar, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor at Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology and Director of Khalifa University Center for Biotechnology, a recipient of an AARE grant said, “As a scientist and researcher, we always compete for research funding which provides us the opportunity to drive the innovation cycle. Our experience with ADEK is always positive because every time we develop proposals, we learn. Failure to receive funding does not mean that our research is unworthy we look at it as an opportunity to improve, but opportunities from ADEK drive us to excel and for this we are grateful for being an AARE awardee this year.”
ADEK continues to foster the Abu Dhabi research ecosystem through funding and policies as well as contributing to solving Abu Dhabi specific challenges by supporting the development of new technologies and solutions.