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Building a Nation of Innovators

Welcome to Mubadala Trends podcast. This episode is in Arabic and the below is a translated transcript. You can watch this episode on our YouTube channel with English subtitles.

Podcast Transcript

Intro: Explore how we are building future economies for a sustainable tomorrow. Mubadala Trends is an innovative, exciting and informative podcast series that takes a deep dive into world issues, drawing on the expertise of Mubadala and other industry leaders. Tune in to learn more about how Mubadala creates lasting value, positive economic, environmental and social impact in communities both at home and overseas. Stay current with Mubadala Trends.

Hamed: Hi everyone. Welcome to this episode of Mubadala Trends. This is your host Hamed Alharithi from the Group Communications Unit at Mubadala. As you know, Mubadala's business portfolio spans more than 50 countries. We're active in multiple sectors from aluminum smelting and advanced manufacturing to life science, healthcare, renewable energy and other industries. During Mubadala Trends podcast series you'll hear an incredibly broad range of topics covered. Partnering and investing at the leading edge of global growth and innovation is at the heart of Mubadala.

Our guest at today's episode of Mubadala Trends is Mr. Badr Al-Olama, and our topic is 'Building a Nation of Innovators'. But let me first introduce our guest. Badr is the Executive Director of the UAE Clusters Unit at the UAE Investments Platform in Mubadala. He also chairs the Board of Directors of Strata, the advanced manufacturing company in Al Ain. Badr also heads the organizing committee for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, a joint initiative between the UAE Government and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization that aims to transform and shape the future of manufacturing.

Badr, thank you for making time to speak with us.

Badr Al-Olama: Thanks Hamed for having me. It’s a great opportunity to share my views on the prospects of the industrial sector and the fourth industrial revolution and how these might impact the UAE economy and Abu Dhabi Economic Plan.

Hamed: The first question that comes to mind is about Covid-19. Since no one could have anticipated Covid-19 before becoming a global pandemic that halted or hampered the growth of many economies, do you think the fourth industrial revolution is still ongoing? Will it continue post Covid-19? Will it precipitate our transition to the fifth industrial revolution?

Badr Al-Olama: I think the Covid-19 pandemic marked a turning point for the fourth industrial revolution. If anything, it has invalidated the once prevalent concerns that the fourth industrial revolution might push up unemployment rates through replacement of the human workforce with robots and human intelligence with artificial intelligence. The pandemic has demonstrated that the fourth industrial revolution’s technology can enable humans to do their jobs without having to be physically present at the work location. I also believe this revolution will gain greater importance in the post-Covid19 era as we explore means of harnessing technology and embedding it in the workplace in a way that enables humans to work in harmony with technology, and ensures continuity of operation and effective management of risks and challenges. I expect this to be the new trend of the fourth revolution, which, like its three predecessors, is likely to last for 30 to 40 years.

Hamed: Are you saying it is premature to talk about a fifth industrial revolution?

Badr Al-Olama: The point I want to make here is that in order for us to get prepared for the next revolution, we need to harness and make the best use of the fourth revolution. The UAE did not exist as a country during the first and second industrial revolutions, but we were there during the third and we continued to learn and to import technology from abroad. Today, under the fourth revolution, we are playing a far more significant role. The UAE as a nation and UAE companies are partnering with the developed nations that are actively promoting the fourth industrial revolution. As you said, the UAE heads the organizing committee for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, working closely with UNIDO. So we are actively involved in many initiatives and are doing our best to learn and take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution so that we can secure a front seat in the next revolution. We need to be better prepared for that, bearing in mind that the next revolution could be a combination of the fourth revolution and a blend of biological factors and digital technologies, but it could well be something else. In all cases, the UAE must be well prepared for the next revolution. We need to rise to the challenge set by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan about getting prepared for the post-oil era in order to ensure a prosperous future for the next generations. Inspired by this vision of HH and the directives of Mubadala leadership, we can come up with new ideas and create internationally competent businesses led by our national talent. Thanks to the continuous support of our visionary leadership, the UAE today stands out as a pioneering experience, while Mubadala is recognized as a top-tier global company.

Hamed: You just mentioned the post-oil era. Since we are destined to get to that point sooner or later, where do we stand now? Are we on the right track?

Badr Al-Olama: As I just pointed out, I joined Mubadala in 2005, and just a year or two later we started discussing an economic vision for Abu Dhabi. At that time, we were talking about things that seemed beyond reach. Who would have imagined the UAE becoming a manufacturer of composite aero structures and the sole manufacturer of some parts for Airbus A330, A350, and A380?

Badr Al-Olama
Badr Al-Olama
Badr Al-Olama

Badr Al-Olama, the Executive Director of the UAE Strategic Clusters Unit of the Investment Sector at Mubadala Investment Company; Chairman of Strata, the leading Al Ain-based advanced manufacturing company, and Head of the organizing committee for the world's first Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS).

Hamed: Parts manufactured by UAE talent?

Badr Al-Olama: Absolutely. Another point worthy of highlighting here is that while strategy-building approaches predominantly focus on the physical aspects, i.e. the structure and equipment, we in the UAE focused first on building national talent. I expect this approach to become a learning model for other countries. We enrolled a group of nationals in advanced training on manufacture of aircraft components. Only after having ensured that those cadres were perfectly fit for the task and that we have the right learning and training infrastructure did we turn to the physical aspects, i.e. construction of the facilities and import of machinery and equipment. That strategy was adopted not in Strata alone but rather in other companies across Abu Dhabi and the UAE, such as Emirates Steel and Emirates Global Aluminum. All the industrial companies that we established, and the ones initiated by Tawazun and now fall under Edge, all followed the same strategy. We are proud to have today a superb infrastructure that allows our companies to compete not only at the regional level but also globally. We are well positioned to embrace cutting-edge technology, particularly digital technology, which will strengthen our competitiveness in future and help make Abu Dhabi and the UAE one of the world’s strongest economies.

Hamed: So, are you saying the UAE is on track as far as the path to the post-oil era?

Badr Al-Olama: By all means. We have in the UAE, and particularly in Abu Dhabi, a solid infrastructure that we can build on. In light of the progress made in implementing the Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision, I believe we are well on track. We have established advanced industries in Abu Dhabi and are well prepared for the post-oil era as outlined by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed. Exporting the last barrel of oil will be a moment of celebration because by that time we will have been ready for a new chapter in our history, with cutting-edge technology in place, and everything we need to ensure a prosperous life for the next generations.

Hamed: Let me now turn to another subject. The UAE has made pioneering contributions in space exploration. An Emirati astronaut has made history as the first Arab to reach the International Space Station. We launched in the past few years three to four satellites to space, and in 2020, at the peak of covid19, we launched the Hope Probe to Mars. As one closely involved in this area, can you tell us how we managed to make that impressive journey in such a short time, and what are the next steps?

Badr Al-Olama: When our wise leadership first shared the idea of launching the Hope Probe, it was received with high skepticism. However, despite the covid19 pandemic that rocked the world, that vision has come true. Today, the UAE proudly stands as one of three countries that successfully sent a probe to Mars. For a country that has come to existence only 50 years ago, that was a phenomenal achievement, particularly if we considered the fact that it was carried out by homegrown talent, which again demonstrates that the most rewarding investment a nation can make is on its human talent.

Hamed: In light of your frequent reference to innovation and innovation-based future, what advice can you share with the young generation? What disciplines should they study, and for those who are entering the labor market, what would you say to them?

Badr Al-Olama: I think the disruption caused by covid19 is a precursor to drastic transformation coming ahead in some sectors. I expect to see hybrid models, a combination of digital technology and traditional methods, dominating the scene in the long-run, and I believe those countries or companies that are able to predict correctly the nature of such hybrid models are more likely to fare better at the end. This transformation is inevitable. The engineer of the future will need to be well versed in technology and able to use hybrid models and coding. So I strongly encourage our young generation to study the applications of digital technologies, AI, block chain, augmented reality, and virtual reality in their areas of study. The digital economy has already become a reality and is destined to dominate the scene further in the forthcoming years, and only those who successfully cope with those changes will win at the end. Everyone has to set a long-term strategic objective and work out a strategy to get there.

Hamed: With this we come to the end of our today’s episode of Mubadala Trends. Please join me in thanking Mr. Badr Al-Olama, Executive Director of the UAE Clusters Unit at Mubadala’s UAE Investments Platform, Chairman of Strata Manufacturing and Head of the organizing committee for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, for being with us today.

Badr Al-Olama: Thanks Hamed for having me. I hope I have shared useful thoughts. And good luck with your next episodes.

Hamed: Thanks Badr. Thanks to all those who followed this episode. Hope you enjoyed it. Please join us in our subsequent episodes. Follow us on social media platforms and share your feedback. Please also subscribe to our bulletin so you can be the first to listen to new episodes. Please see the links below.