The Business Year

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UAE, ABU DHABI - Telecoms & IT

Sultan Al Hajji

Vice President of Public Affairs and Alumni Relations, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI)

Bio

Sultan Al Hajji joined MBZUAl as Vice President of Public Affairs and Alumni Relations in 2022. He has held high-level leadership and C-suite positions in international energy corporations, banking, and the public sector and has worked in government, industry and banking businesses and has a diverse professional background. Prior to joining MBZUAl, Al Hajji was an expert on partnerships and alumni at UAE University (UAEU). He was VP of TotalEnergies for a long period before joining UAEU. Al Hajji is also the President of Alliance Francaise – Abu Dhabi, chairman of the UAEU university college of science advisory board, and VP of Manzil Center. He has a master’s degree from Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami in the US, and post-graduate studies at ESSEC IMD in France.

“Our dedication to AI research has resulted in the UAE becoming one of the top countries in the world in terms of publications in the field.”
In addition to focusing on the applications of AI for health, education, and sustainability in the Emirate, MBZUAI also collaborates with other innovative organizations to advance knowledge of AI and their ability to apply it.
MBZUAI is the first research-based university worldwide dedicated to the development of AI. What is the basis of your academic curriculum?

MBZUAI launched in 2019 with the aim to empower students, businesses, and governments to advance AI as a global force for good, to be a key driver of national development, and a game-changer for the UAE. Against a backdrop of global AI talent shortages, we are providing a world-leading pipeline of AI specialists to support the UAE’s innovation trajectory. Since inception, we have already attracted globally renowned experts in AI, including more than 50 faculty—56% of whom were recruited from the world’s top 100 AI institutions. Similarly, we are attracting students from the top 50 universities in the world, who favor Abu Dhabi over other leading computer science establishments such as Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), University of Southern California (USC), or Tsinghua University. MBZUAI’s first cohort of master’s degree students—comprising 52 students across all three of our programs, namely, natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning—graduated in January 2023. Of our first class of graduates, 95% decided to remain in Abu Dhabi, with more than 80% already employed and one even launching their own start-up. This shows that MBZUAI is already succeeding in creating an ecosystem that brings together innovators, incubators, accelerators, academia, researchers, and students to advance innovation. Our dedication to AI research has resulted in the UAE becoming one of the top countries in the world in terms of publications in the field. We are honored to be ranked amongst the top 20 institutions for AI in our areas of specialization, namely, machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing (CSRankings). Being the only university in the world dedicated specifically to AI is a privilege and responsibility that we take seriously.

How have you achieved the level of diversity at MBZUAI that other universities have yet to attain?

MBZUAI reflects the cosmopolitan and diverse cultures of the UAE, which includes more than 200 nationalities. Positioned at the global crossroads of north, south, east, and west, we are able to attract the best AI practitioners from around the world, and we have a rigorous recruitment process to ensure we are able to find and attract the highest-caliber students. We send our recruitment team to countries around the globe with the aim of inviting students to lectures and giving them the opportunity to learn about MBZUAI and its programs. We also cooperate with other institutions to assist students. Our students represent more than 35 different nationalities, with 30% being female—which is above average for STEM subjects—and we are keen to keep increasing this number. MBZUAI graduates and researchers will have a tremendous impact on enriching the AI ecosystem in Abu Dhabi and the national economy. We are also proud of the fact that our students have distinguished themselves in competitions and hackathons, often receiving top rankings and awards. I am proud that almost 20% of our students are Emiratis. It is good to see that we have the same admission criteria for all.

How is MBZUAI reaching out to industry?

In addition to master’s and PhD programs, we also offer the MBZUAI Executive Program (MEP) to help top leaders of government departments and companies understand the transformative potential of AI, and how it applies to their organization. The program covers essential topics including an introduction to the past, present, and future of AI and machine learning; AI, machine learning, and the economy; lingual cognition and intelligence; visual cognition and intelligence; AI ethics and policymaking; and the future of robotics. We aspire to provide transformative executive and professional education experiences by connecting diverse professionals with MBZUAI’s leading faculty and research along with engaging them in important practice problems to support local and global entities with building AI talent and capabilities.

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