Realising our innovation aspirations.
Innovation is one of the great enablers of the modern economy. In its simplest form, innovation is the evidence of our ability to learn and adapt to evolving circumstances in order to maintain an undeviating course towards a desired destination.
To this end, improving the quality of higher education, expanding research and development as well as greater collaboration with the private sector, my main priorities as the Minister of State for Higher Education, are key drivers of innovation. Enhancing these areas of society is fundamental to building a sophisticated knowledge-based economy in the UAE.
In pursuit of this important national priority, it was encouraging to see the UAE move up six places to 41 in the 2016 Global Innovation Index (GII), released earlier this week by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
The GII ranks 128 countries based on a range of indicators, including infrastructure, market sophistication, creative output and research. More specifically, the 'innovation quality' category looks at the calibre of universities, number of scientific publications and international patent filings.
The index is a useful benchmark of a country's innovation capabilities and provides valuable insights to help enhance our innovation capacity. As such, ranking first in the Arab World and in at least four individual categories not only speaks to the fact that innovation is an important focus area of the UAE government but is also illustrative of the successful steps we have taken thus far.
The UAE aspires to be one of the most innovative nations in the world as our leadership recognises the key role innovation plays in spurring economic growth and boosting our global competitiveness. Moreover, innovation will help our great nation diversify our economy and create sustainable wealth that is independent of natural and non-renewable resources.
Increased R&D spending
Despite ongoing uncertainty in the global economy, the index showed that the UAE has increased its expenditure on research and development at a time when many countries are cutting back. As a nation we are attracting more and better qualified talent, and our enthusiastic young entrepreneurs are also applying for more patents. In turn, knowledge and technology outputs are reported to have increased alongside a marked rise in the number of trademark registration applications submitted across the country.
Creating an enabling environment for innovation where this momentum can be sustained, starting with our institutes of higher education, is something that I am personally committed to. By expanding research and development in universities across the UAE and encouraging students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), we are helping ensure that our graduates are developing the skill set they need for the future economy.
Furthermore, innovation leads to more innovation. By building a strong STEM education pipeline and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, we are unlocking the potential of our graduates to become job creators, enabling them to be the driving force of the UAE's economic growth and development.
Nevertheless, while we have made gains across all innovation categories measured by the GII, we must not let our heads be turned. The pace of change means we must be relentless in our pursuit of innovation if we are to reach our destination as a thriving knowledge-driven nation.
Along the way we will need to find new drivers of economic growth to ensure we remain in sync with the latest technologies and scientific discoveries. Doing so will be key to our ability to continue responding to and driving positive change in the world.
Dr. Ahmad Bel Houl is the UAE's Minister of State for Higher Education.
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