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.
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Hamed: Hello, everyone, welcome to Mubadala Trends. This is your host Hamed Alharthi from Mubadala’s Group Communications Unit.
Today’s episode is about innovation, why investing in innovation and technology is important and why the younger generation should take the lead in this drive. We will discuss these issues with Fatima Al Kaabi, the UAE’s youngest inventor who has already made significant contributions to her country’s efforts to become a global platform for innovation.
Thanks Fatima for being with us.
Fatima Al Kaabi: Thanks Hamed for this great opportunity to share my views on this important topic.
Hamed: Thanks Fatima. We are on the threshold of a new transition where sovereign funds across the world are showing mounting interest in disruptive sectors, particularly those related to innovation and shaping the future. As a leading sovereign fund, Mubadala is keen to make sure that it is well prepared for that transition. It may be relevant to mention here that Mubadala is due to release shortly a documentary film on the significance of investing in innovation. In this film, Fatima will be conducting a series of interviews with a number of notable figures in innovation and investment.
But before getting to that, may I ask you Fatima to introduce yourself and tell us how you managed at this young age, below 20 years, to become an innovation icon in the UAE?
Fatima Al Kaabi: I am in the second year of my undergraduate degree program in the United States, studying computer engineering and artificial intelligence. But I am better known as the youngest Emirati innovator, with 12 inventions to my name, including a Braille printer for blind people, a solar bag for desert trips, and many others. I can say I have a strong passion for innovation and have been very keen to help promote and embed this culture through exhibits, conferences, and workshops. And of course I am proud of being part of the documentary film you just mentioned.
Hamed: Let us begin from innovation. Would you give the audience a simple definition of this term?
Fatima Al Kaabi: Let us distinguish between invention and innovation. The former can be defined as the creation of a product or a process for the first time, whereas the latter refers to improvements made to an existing product, process, etc. Innovation is a broad term that is not restricted to technology but rather extends to a wide range of domains, such as education, science and technology. Any quality addition in these areas can be defined as innovation.
Hamed: Good point. Thanks for clarifying this difference.
Fatima Al Kaabi: Yes. I believe it is important to make this distinction, particularly for the younger generations. Innovation is easier, as it builds on an already existing product or process. Take the telephone, for instance. It was invented long time ago; therefore, all modifications and improvements made ever since- involving function, size, and shape- were innovations.
Hamed: It’s amazing that at this young age you have twelve inventions to your name. Would you please talk us through the early beginnings of this impressive journey?
Fatima Al Kaabi: I had a passion for innovation and technology since I was seven years old. My fascination with games was immediately recognized by my family, who supported me. At age 10, I invented a photographer robot, and it was only after submitting it to a conference in Dubai that I realized it was the first of its kind. So I continued to produce new innovative solutions to daily life problems, whether at home, at school, or in the community at large. I have so far twelve inventions and am all determined to continue along this path.
Award-Winning Emirati Inventor
Fatima Al Kaabi is an award-winning student who was recognized in 2015 as the youngest Emirati inventor, with more than 12 inventions including robots and tools for the hearing impaired. She is studying Computer Science at Virginia Tech University and represents the UAE in international events where she converses with leading corporations such as GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Silver Lake, Hub 71, and more.
Hamed: That’s truly impressive, Fatima.
Fatima Al Kaabi: I am thankful to God, who gave me the power to put those inventions at the service of my beloved country, and to be part of its development and progress.
Hamed: The UAE is sparing no effort in supporting the drive towards innovation. Would you tell us how you personally benefited from that?
Fatima Al Kaabi: I consider myself fortunate to be from a country that values innovation and extends considerable support to innovators. This has been a top priority for the UAE for many years now. I remember just a few years ago how people were surprised at hearing my comments about the innovations and inventions I saw in other countries, such as China and the United States, or watched on TV channels or online platforms (YouTube). Today, thanks to our Government’s efforts, innovation has become very much part of our life. As you remember, 2015 was marked as the year of innovation in the UAE. And every year one or two months are dedicated for recognizing national talent in schools, universities, and various sectors.
Hamed: The UAE is undergoing a strong momentum towards technology and AI. Today we have a new ministry and a new university both dedicated to AI, as well as innovative clean energy technologies. These have helped in embedding innovation and technology concepts. To what extent do you see the Emirati youth are attracted to these areas?
Fatima Al Kaabi: I can see an unprecedented drive towards new disciplines such as space science, AI, big data, and other areas. The huge focus accorded to these sectors by the Government has encouraged the Emirati youth to enroll in these disciplines to be part of many huge initiatives and projects, such as the Hope Probe to Mars, and others. We are living in an environment that fosters innovation in all spheres, and it is only natural that the youth seek new disciplines in line with these developments.
Hamed: Many people tend to believe that to become an innovator or inventor one needs to specialize in AI, IT, or renewable energy technologies. What do you think? Is innovation restricted to these areas?
Fatima Al Kaabi: Innovation is a broad realm that covers these areas you mentioned as well as many others. It is true that the areas you cited are witnessing a huge momentum in innovation. But since innovation is about improving something already existing, there is huge room for innovation in areas as diverse as medicine, education, music, and others. We need to remember that innovation can mean a simple addition or improvement and does not necessarily mean developing a complex technology.
Hamed: Let’s now turn to Mubadala’s documentary: “Investing in Innovation”. Tell us about the film and your experience.
Fatima Al Kaabi: The main idea behind this documentary is to highlight the UAE’s innovation drive. The film enabled me to meet and interview over several weeks some of the leading UAE figures who have contributed significantly to the development of the UAE. I also had the chance to visit many entities involved in investment and innovation. The film highlights the UAE’s pioneering role in the area of innovation and Mubadala’s significant contributions to investment in innovation and technology.
Hamed: With this, we come to the end of today’s episode of Mubadala Trends. Please join me in thanking Fatima for sharing her invaluable insights. We are truly proud of her and of the new UAE generation. And let me take this opportunity to invite everyone to listen to the episode featuring Badr Al Olama, which focused on the 4th Industrial Revolution and future prospects.
Fatima Al Kaabi: Thanks Hamed for having me. I hope I have shared useful thoughts. And good luck with your next episodes. By the way, I did listen to Badr’s episode. It was very informative.
Hamed: Thanks Fatima. Thanks to all those who listened to this episode. Hope you enjoyed it. May I invite everyone to watch Mubadala’s documentary “Investing in Innovation” in which our guest Fatima Al Kaabi took part. 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.