Interview: Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak

As Abu Dhabi pursues its economic diversification priorities, what are the critical success factors for establishing new industry sectors?

KHALDOON KHALIFA AL MUBARAK: The Abu Dhabi government has articulated a very clear vision for the development and diversification of its economy. Known as the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, the strategy is designed to boost the contribution of non-oil, export-oriented sectors to GDP. The government is relying on the public, private and educational sectors to each participate in the implementation of this plan. Looking beyond our borders, success will also depend on finding the right international partners to help accelerate the development of a range of new industries in our economy. By collaborating with leading private and public organisations to harness expertise and resources, we can apply the emirate’s competitive advantages to maximum effect and develop global business platforms in line with Abu Dhabi’s long-term priorities. We also need to cultivate local talent, in the form of young UAE nationals with advanced technical abilities. Promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics skill development among Emirati students is vital in building a future workforce fully equipped to participate in new economic sectors, particularly in the private sector.

What are the most promising strategies for encouraging more local talent with specialised expertise?

AL MUBARAK: Education and training are at the heart of developing a more diversified and knowledge-based economy, and there are an ever-increasing number of academic institutions in the UAE offering world-class programmes. These institutions are equipping students with the skills they will need to meet the demands of the many new industries that are being established in Abu Dhabi. Beyond formal training, providing real-world experience is a powerful way to attract and retain talent in emerging fields. Mubadala-owned Strata, for example, is partnering with UAE University and Lockheed Martin to offer a programme training UAE nationals as aerospace technicians. Meanwhile, at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a number of Emirati students are gaining direct experience with advanced nanotechnology through targeted scholarships, internships and on-the-job training at facilities overseas.

Given the immense potential created via Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), can this model be replicated in other industrial sectors in the UAE?

AL MUBARAK: EGA has been founded on homegrown technology and represents a unified effort that is putting commercial infrastructure in place for the UAE. EGA will be the fifth-largest aluminium company in the world and provide more than 33,000 jobs through the end of this decade. Its formation is the result of a measured, deliberate approach by shareholders to harness the intellectual capital, international partnerships and proven industrial capabilities of Emirates Aluminium and Dubai Aluminium, and combine them to create a global industrial player. The EGA approach – building on existing strengths, sharing knowledge and collaborating for competitive advantage – has potential in other industries as well. Partnership and the exchange of expertise, for example, are providing the foundation for the growth of a diversified tier-one aerospace manufacturing hub at Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park.

What is being done to drive Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy, in particular via research and development in advanced technology and clean energy?

AL MUBARAK: Local bodies such as Masdar Institute are leading the way by bridging high-tech industries and the academic sector. By providing opportunities for collaborative research and pilot projects, the institute is driving the development of innovative solutions for sustainability issues and generating research in fields that are relevant to both local and international markets. Institutions like this are helping to establish a research and development ecosystem in Abu Dhabi.