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Students from Abu Dhabi’s Petroleum Institute on the edge of an engineering breakthrough

posted on 04/09/2015

Casually ask a group of female students from Abu Dhabi's Petroleum Institute what first drew them to science and they answer in unison, somewhat indignantly: "Engineering. We're engineers.”

Yes, of course, duly corrected.

These students of chemical and petroleum engineering are mostly prospective 2016 graduates and will be the sixth batch of female students to have gone through the Petroleum Institute's programmes since it opened its doors to women eight years ago.

The group are just back from a fortnight's tour of some of Germany's most advanced petrochemical facilities – a regular feature of the institute's educational programme, which brings students abroad to not only learn industrial methods but also to give them a chance for a little immersion in other cultures.

A trip to Germany for engineers is, of course, a little like a pilgrimage to the industrial holy land, with the country's centuries of industrialisation and a reputation for world-leading engineering development, especially in chemicals.

Most of these women are no strangers to foreign travel for professional development. As Aisha Nasser Al Khouri, a geoscience engineering senior, points out, part of her course has involved stints in Italy and Spain to study geological structures that are similar to those found in the UAE – though, of course, without the subsurface oceans of oil.

But this German trip, Ms Al Khouri says, gave her a chance to see for the first time the full geological assessment process in a professional context. The host of the trip was Wintershall, Germany's largest international oil and gas company and a division of BASF, the world's largest chemicals company. Students travelled on their first day to Barnstorf, 60 kilometres south-east of Bremen, to see Winterhsall's geo-processing operations centre.

The students all have an attachment to one of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's operating companies, and Wintershall is an Adnoc partner on a number of UAE projects, for example as operator of the Shuwaihat field in the western region, a "sour gas” field that is one of the most challenging geological and chemical environments to operate in.

Merriet Gamal Kamel, a chemical engineering student from Egypt, says one of the best aspects of these extended professional field trips is to put their chosen study areas in a broader context.

Talking of the excursion to the mining museum at Rammelsberg, where there has been mining in the mountain for more than 1,000 years, Ms Kamel says: "It was fascinating to see drawings of how they were able to do it in the old days with almost nothing, no tools at all. And then, as a chemical engineer, to be able to see at BASF [a few days later] how these days ethylene gets processed into everyday products for hair, clothes and so on.”

About 300 women have now entered the Petroleum Institute's programme, and there is a sense from the students that some are a little jaded being asked for a "female perspective” – especially a Middle East female perspective.

"You know, there were some places we visited that it was the first time that they have seen female engineers in these fields,” says Mariam Abdulrahman Al Baloushi, a chemical engineering student in her junior year, adding that it is not only in the UAE that women are breaking through in engineering fields,

As Ms Al Khouri says, she had a chance to talk to a German female engineer a few years older than the students, who had already had an overseas posting to a Middle East country. "She had the experience of getting into a new environment, a new world, had to experience different weather, different food. She told me how she, as a female engineer, progressed through her work in this situation,” Ms Al Khouri says.

The trip through some of Germany's oldest cities, including Heidelberg, sparked an interest in the country's culture and for some the possibility of pursuing postgraduate study abroad.

The visit also took in Clausthal University of Technology, which is now offering postgraduate programmes in English and German, a growing trend among continental European universities that are looking to attract foreign students.

The field trip ventured outside the students' specific fields, with a full-day outing to the EADS Astrium in Bremen to hear about the latest in space technology. They also investigated solar technology, although some of the students were a little underwhelmed, despite the fact Germany is Europe's leading solar-tech country.

"We have Masdar,” shrugs Shamma Mahmoud Al Qaissieh. "The technology is much wider here than what they have shown us,” adds the petroleum engineering senior. – The National -


UAE helps restore normal life to Aden

posted on 04/09/2015

Life in Aden is slowly returning to normal with the help of the UAE, which has invested millions of dirhams to restore power, water and basic services, including schools, to the Yemeni port city.

Electricity is now available for 12 hours each day in Aden city after the Emirates delivered three new diesel generators.

"We are going to restore the daily life of Aden by returning the water, electricity, health, sewage and schools,” says Brigadier General Abdullah Al Dhaheri of the UAE armed forces, who heads Aden's reconstruction committee.

The city's infrastructure is severely damaged after months of fighting between forces loyal to the government of exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and Iran-backed Houthis rebels seeking to take over the city.

The loyalist fighters were supported with air strikes, arms and training from a Saudi Arabia-led anti-rebel coalition.

The UAE plays a key role in the coalition and sent its own armed forces to join the final push to liberate the city last July.

Since then, the UAE has worked to bring relief to the shattered city's residents. Electricity is the service most urgently needed, Brig Gen Al Dhaheri says.

"The Emirates provided 65 megawatts [of electricity] at a cost of Dh1 million, and this is emergency electricity.”

The UAE will also begin paying the salaries of Yemenis working for the government-owned water and electricity corporations in Aden on Sunday.

All the workers and engineers taking part in the reconstruction of Aden are Yemenis, providing crucial employment.

Mohammed Shahinaz, 33, is a Yemeni engineer in the electricity station of Aden who is part of a team tasked with restoring electricity in Aden.

"The Emirates took the responsibility to rehabilitate the electricity station of Aden,” Mr Shahinaz tells The National.

He is delighted to know that he will finally receive his salary this Sunday from the UAE government. He has not been paid since the Houthi militias took entered Aden five months ago.

"It is enough to say that the UAE has the loyalty of all the residents in Aden,” says Mr Shahinaz.

As the main supporter of Aden's reconstruction, the UAE is paving the way for the return of Mr Hadi's government by rebuilding the presidential palace in Aden.

According to Mr Hadi's chief of staff, Mohammed Ali Marem, the UAE is focusing on government institutions before working on private institutions.

As electricity, water, food and medical needs have been addressed, the UAE is now turning its attention to schooling, which has been disrupted since the fighting between the Southern Resistance and the Houthi rebels broke out in late March.

Several schools have been destroyed completely.

"Every day I visit my damaged school in Crater district and remember my classmates and teachers ... I hope to come back again to my school to study again,” Rawan Al Aidrous, 10, a student in Shamsan school in Crater district tells The National.

"Before the war I used to be happy if there was a holiday, but now I am bored of the long holiday that we have. Now I know the value of studying,” she says.

Sami Abdullah, 11, a student from Al Mustaqbal school in Khormaskar district also longs to return to his school, but its been destroyed in the war and there are no alternative premises to hold lessons for the students.

"When I ask my father about our return to the school, he replies that we should wait for the Emirates to rebuild the school. I hope that is as soon as possible, I hope to resume my normal life after the bad war,” Sami says despondently.

He used to enjoy his time with his school friends, but has not met his classmates since the beginning of the war.

"I wish to play football in the school field again.”

Gen Al Dhaheri says there are more than 100 schools in Aden and all of them are affected by the war.

The UAE has a three-phase plan to restore school system, he says.

"The first step aims to reopen more than 60 schools in different districts in Aden after two weeks, and this is a quick step to resume education in Aden, and the schools will open in October 3,” Gen Al Dhaheri says.

He adds that the next phases will include repairing the rest of the schools, so that lessons can resume in Aden.

"The UAE is the only supporter of the schools' reconstruction, and the cost is around Dh2 million,” Gen Al Dhaheri says. – The National -


#yemen_we_care ERC's month-long Yemen humanitarian appeal raises Dh 64.6 million in five days

posted on 04/09/2015

The Emirates Red Crescent, ERC, has announced that the total contributions received so far for the benefit of the "Yemen: We Care" donation campaign that was launched last Sunday, has now reached more than Dh 64.6 million.

The campaign comes under the guidance of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and with the instructions of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and is being followed up by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the ERC, as part of the stance of the United Arab Emirates with the Yemeni people, providing help to nearly 10 million people who are suffering in the crisis.

The ERC noted that most of the donations came via SMS.

On Friday, national TV networks will run unified coverage of the campaign to receive donations and put the spotlight on the health, educational and public services requirements for rebuilding Yemen. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Emirati women urged to continue to strive for success

posted on 04/09/2015

Emirati women have been urged to continue working hard towards the development of their country.

On Thursday, Al Reem School hosted a panel discussion to mark Emirati Women's Day.

The speakers included Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, Major Sarah Al Hajri, one of the first women pilots in the Air Force, and Amna Al Najdi, one of the first female teachers in the country.

Dr Al Qubaisi said the UAE's leaders had "invested in the education and development of its national women and providing us equal opportunities to prove ourselves in every field.

"So, now it is our responsibility to pay back our country.”

She said the UAE should be proud that is the only country in the Gulf region that had established a separate military training institute for women.

Ms Al Najdi urged Emirati women to continue their studies.

"Education does not stop with a university degree. It's a continuous process which everyone should follow until their last breath,” she said. – The National -


Abdullah bin Zayed meets India's prime minister

posted on 04/09/2015

NEW DELHI: India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, received H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, here yesterday.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah conveyed the regards of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to the Indian prime minister. The prime minister asked Sheikh Abdullah to convey his regards to the Their Highnesses, UAE leaders, and his best wishes of further progress and prosperity to the UAE.

Sheikh Abdullah stressed the UAE's keenness and desire to strengthen co-operation and friendship to unlock more opportunities for growth and progress in all fields to serve the common interests of the two friendly peoples and countries.

For his part, the prime minister welcomed Sheikh Abdullah and his accompanying delegation, expressing the hope that the visit would have positive results in promotion of what has been achieved in the recent years of development in bilateral relations, exploring further prospects and opportunities of investment and partnership in the economic, investment, trade and tourism and agricultural projects, as well as renewable energy, energy projects, security and other fields.

He praised the success of the 11th Joint Commission session between the UAE and the Republic of India, hosted in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah and Modi reviewed the development of bilateral relations and ways to achieve further growth and prosperity in the light of the strategic partnership between the two countries, and the possibility of opening new areas for investment to harness available opportunities in both countries, as well as to provide more opportunities for participation of private sector, investors and businessmen in joint ventures.

They also discussed a number of projects related to bilateral co-operation for investment in renewable energy sector and a number of other areas such as tourism, agriculture, education and others.

The meeting was attended by Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Abdullah bin Zayed meets India's external affairs minister, chairs UAE-India Joint Commission meeting

posted on 04/09/2015

NEW DELHI: H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister met yesterday with India's External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, in the presence of Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State.

During the meeting, they discussed distinguished strategic relations and ways to strengthen them. They also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues of mutual concern, as well as the latest developments.

Sheikh Abdullah underscored that the UAE's relations with India, which were established in 1972, are based on mutual understanding and respect, expressing the interest of the two countries to strengthen relations in a way that reflects ambitions and directives of the leaders in both countries to serve objectives and higher interests.

The UAE foreign minister made the remarks yesterday while chairing the 11th session of the UAE-India Joint Commission. The Indian side was led by its external affairs minister.

Sheikh Abdullah thanked Swaraj and her delegation for the hospitality and reception accorded to them.

"The convening of this meeting comes as evidence of the success of the previous meeting of the joint commission between the two countries in February 2013, which resulted in the initiative to establish strategic oil reserves in India by the Government of Abu Dhabi. We hope the implementation mechanism will be completed soon," he said.

Sheikh Abdullah praised the recent visit of Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, to the UAE from 16th to 17th August, which contributed to the development of relations between the two countries to a new strategic level in all fields, as well as availed an opportunity to discuss investment opportunities in areas of common interest.

"The meeting is an opportunity to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries and to identify investment opportunities in both countries," he pointed out, and added that the UAE is working to develop political and trade relations between the two countries. He called for greater co-ordination in joint action in international organisations and conferences, and other important international forums.

"We thank the Indian government for its support to the nomination of the UAE for the membership of the Human Rights Council for the period 2016 to 2018," Sheikh Abdullah said, adding, "The UAE ranked third as the most important trading partners for India for the fiscal year 2014 -2015. The total volume of non-oil trade stood at about $28.56 billion in 2014, a figure that reflects the current level of development of bilateral relations, but encourages us to find more ways and means to increase the volume of trade exchange."

He stressed the importance of the private sector in the development of these relations.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the volume of investments of Indian companies in the country amounted to approximately $74.8 billion in businesses and real estate, while there are over 45,000 Indian companies operating in the UAE markets.

"This is evidence of the confidence of Indian investors in the UAE's business environment," he affirmed.

He stressed that the UAE enjoys a stimulating business environment, which is attractive to investors looking to have access to neighbouring markets in the region, and added that this environment has spurred the signing of the agreement on protection and promotion of investments between the two countries, which has contributed to promoting bilateral investments.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE has been ranked 10th worldwide in the volume of its investments in India, touching nearly $9 billion, a low number compared to the potential of the huge investment in India. He added that the UAE investments in India are divided on the energy, mineral industries, services and technology and construction sectors.

He added that the volume of remittances from the UAE to India stood at $12.64 billion in 2014, which play an important role in driving the growth of the Indian economy.

Sheikh Abdullah said, "India is an important strategic partner to the UAE, especially in the field of energy through bilateral co-operation between the two countries in the field of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. Therefore, we call for greater co-operation in the field of climate change, especially during this year in which all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Paris to conclude a new agreement."

He praised the efforts of the UAE- India Task Force on Investments, which was established in April 2012 as a platform to discuss common issues associated with investments between the two countries to encourage and facilitate cross-border investments and achieve positive results.

Sheikh Abdullah said that there were about 956 flights per week between the two countries, a move that reflects the growth in this vital sector between the two countries.

He thanked the heads and members of the preparatory committee for their effort in making the commission's meeting a success, stressing the need for continuity of the joint commission and follow up of its recommendations. He hoped the next meeting of the commission would be held in Abu Dhabi.

On her part, the Indian External Affairs Minister welcomed Sheikh Abdullah, Reem Al Hashimy and the delegation accompanying.

She stressed the importance of the visit, which would further strengthen bilateral relations and open avenues for discussing a number of issues, whether political, or economic, or consular or related to the security in a way that serves best interest of the two countries.

"The Joint Commission meeting is one of the most important institutional mechanisms between our two countries for discussing the entire gamut of our bilateral partnership. This meeting is being held after a gap of more than three years," she said.

She referred to the visit she paid to the UAE in November last year, adding that she was deeply impressed by the history, culture and especially by the vibrant and diversified economic progress achieved in a short span of a few decades. "India and UAE share a centuries-old unique bond of mutual trust based on our shared values and synergies. Our economic, cultural and people-to-people ties are deep-rooted and marked by resilience and vibrancy."

Swaraj stressed the importance of the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to UAE, describing it as "an important milestone in the bilateral relations of our two countries especially as this was the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister since1981, that is, after nearly 34 years. During the visit the two sides also agreed to elevate our friendly relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership by identifying new areas of cooperation."

She added that the UAE is one of the major trade partners of India, noting that the signing of agreement on avoiding double taxation and investment protection would contribute to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Indian external affairs minister called on Emirati businessmen and companies to invest in India in line with the initiative of the development of India launched by the new government. The initiative comprises 25 sectors, covering areas of infrastructure and energy, renewable energy, defence, railways, roads, petrochemical and others.

She praised the agreements which will be signed, saying they will contribute to the development of relations between the two countries.

Swaraj added that both countries are looking forward to cooperation in space, agriculture, small and medium enterprises, health, tourism, culture, calling for continuous official visits between the two countries.

She pointed out that her country and the UAE "are working together to promote peace, stability and security and fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms.

Sheikh Abdullah and Swaraj signed the minutes of the Commission's meeting. Sheikh Abdullah also witnessed the signing of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the two countries, including MoU between Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology with the Bureau of Indian Standards, MoU between UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, MoU between the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research with the Ministry of Human Resource Development of India for cooperation in the field of higher education and scientific research.

The UAE National Council for Tourism and Antiquities signed MoU with the Ministry of Tourism of India, while the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of India and the UAE also signed the MoU.

At arrival in India, Sheikh Abdullah was accorded an official welcome at the New Delhi Airport, where he was received by Rao Inderjit Singh, India's Minister of State for Defence. The national anthem of both countries were played, in addition to displaying of Indian folklore.

Sheikh Abdullah also attended on the sidelines of the Joint Commission the reception held on the occasion of the launch of the UAE- India Business Council. The event was also attended by Reem Al Hashimy, Swaraj, India's external minister and a number of senior officials of the two countries. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Abdullah bin Zayed meets India's ministers of defence and railway

posted on 04/09/2015

NEW DELHI: H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, met yesterday in New Delhi, India' Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, in the framework of his current visit to the Republic of India.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah and Parrikar reviewed cooperation between the two countries, focussing on the defence and military fields and ways of enhancing and exchanging views on the latest regional and international developments.

The UAE foreign minister also met India's Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu. They exchanged views on ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, especially at the level of transport and infrastructure sector, as well as major rail network projects and how best to benefit from the Indian experience in this area.

The two meetings were attended by Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Al Murr: UAE is pioneer in supporting peace and finding global solutions to climate and poverty problems

posted on 04/09/2015

NEW YORK: Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, Speaker of Federal National Council, FNC, has stressed that the UAE, under its wise leadership, has been a pioneer in calling for finding global solutions to climate change and poverty, epidemics and other problems.

On the sidelines of his participation as a head of the UAE Parliamentary Division's delegation at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, which concluded yesterday at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Al Murr said in a statement to Emirates News Agency, WAM, that the conference is held every five years with the participation of heads of parliaments of the world to discuss the political, economic, social and cultural conditions of the various countries of the world, as well as the challenges facing humanity, whether related to the environment and its problems, the economy and its developments, or education and its challenges.

He said that the conference is an opportunity where parliamentary leaderships exchange constructive ideas and international cooperation among the peoples' representatives and the leaders of nations meet to achieve coordination and cooperation between governments. He stressed that the cooperation of parliaments and governments helps to overcome many international difficulties.

He noted that the UAE government has extended a helping hand to the victims of various international disasters in Asia, Africa and Latin America besides its pioneer role in supporting peace initiatives and solving regional and international problems.

He pointed out that the UAE has played a major role in the fight against extremism and terrorism as a phenomenon threatening the stability and international peace and security and all this is a continuation of the late founder of the nation, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's approach, who set out the rules of this wise policy in supporting peace and cooperation.

He added that President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates are following-up the same steps as the late Sheikh Zayed, which put the UAE at the forefront of the world in contributing to solve the problems being experiencing by humanity and is working hard to find positive solutions for them. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Arabs need to move swiftly towards economic integration: Al Mansouri

posted on 04/09/2015

CAIRO: The Arab region needs to move swiftly now, more than ever before, towards implementation of economic and social programmes and initiatives to bolster its economy, and generate job opportunities for the unemployed, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE's Minister of Economy, said in his keynote address as chairman of the 96th ordinary ministerial meeting of the Arab Economic and Social Council, at the Arab League's Secretariat General in Cairo yesterday.

The region also needs to increase its self-dependence to meet demand, mitigate the impact of price fluctuations in foreign markets, curb the decline in world oil prices, and stop the flight of human capital and talented minds to the advanced nations, Al Mansouri added.

'Time is opportune today to implement a variety of joint developmental projects, improve legislative frameworks that regulate inter-Arab economic relations so as to build the Arab joint economic integration,' he said in his address.

'The meeting is being convened amidst rapid developments and tremendous challenges facing our Arab region and its people. This situation requires more solidarity and co-operation so as to co-ordinate and reinforce Arab joint action economically and socially to address these challenges,' he told the gathering.

He said the agenda of the meeting includes key issues of interest to Arab countries, particularly the implementation of resolutions issued by Arab summits and the Arab Economic and Social Council, and those recommended by conferences and summits held in the Arab region with other world groups.

'We need to see tangible progress in the implementation of these resolutions and recommendations to realise the aspirations of Arab countries,' he emphasised.

Issues relating to progress of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and the Arab Customs Union will also figure high on the agenda.

'Arab economic integration has become an urgent demand for tackling the economic challenges facing the Arab countries and advancing efforts towards sustainable economic development,' he added.

Like other Arab countries, the UAE views with great interest the GAFTA as one of the major gains of Arab joint co-operation and efforts should continue to remove barriers so as to stimulate inter-Arab trade exchange and accelerate the drive towards the Arab Customs Union, the minister added.

The UAE minister indicated that inter-Arab exports rose from US$71 billion in 2007 to $113 billion in 2013, while inter-Arab imports grew from $64.7 billion to $114.3 billion for the same period, noting that these figures did not match the huge potential, capabilities and aspirations of the Arab countries.

The minister blamed the lack of transparency, bureaucracy, customs, non-customs complicated formalities, and non-compliance with obligations, apart from weak infrastructure of land and marine transport and communications, fragile Arab economic structures, and the lack of a robust services sector as the main culprits behind low inter-Arab trade exchange.

'We expect inter-Arab trade exchange to grow more than 10 per cent, if these barriers are removed,' he said.

Turning to investment, the minister stressed that the sector holds the key for holistic development, notably economic development, and there is an urgent necessity to reduce risks before inter-Arab direct investment to ensure inflow of capital into the development process. Inter-Arab investment stood at $103 billion between 2001 and 2012, a figure which was good but below expectations even with the available resources.

The minister acknowledged the importance of the Arab economic bloc in light of the world's drive to redraw the global economic map by opening up new markets and forging economic alliances.

He called on Arab states to endorse the amended Unified Agreement for the Investment of Arab Capital in the Arab states as part of efforts to boost Arab joint action, improve the investment climate and streamline business practices.

'The UAE is in the process of endorsing this agreement and its economy is open to any Arab investor,' he announced.

In this regard, the UAE is gearing up to host the 17th cycle of the Arab Investors and Businessmen Conference, a pan-Arab economic and investment gathering that seeks to strengthen cooperation among countries of the Arab world, he said.

Themed, ‘Investment in Innovations and Entrepreneurship', the event is on 11th and 12th, November, 2015, under the kind patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The minister said, 'We are living in a world of rapid development that requires us to be creative and innovative to catch up with its quick pace. For that, the UAE, along with many Arab countries, has adopted pro-innovation policies in both public and private sectors.' The UAE, he added, had also adopted policies to diversify sources of national income, move towards knowledge-based economy and encourage innovation. It also followed strategic planning mechanisms to increase participation of the private sector in the development drive. It has also drawn a roadmap to reach its targets for raising growth rates, diversifying income and maintaining high living standard and sharpening competitive edge and keep pace with modern technology.

The UAE is currently completing the transformation towards a smart government to deliver public services through smart applications harnessing the advanced Information and communications technology (ICT), he said.

'The UAE ranked high in many international development indexes thanks to its adoption of modern technology,' he noted.

Concluding his statement, Al Mansouri emphasised the UAE's determination during its presidency of the 96th ordinary meeting to do whatever in its power to advance Arab joint action, especially in central issues.

Addressing the session, Arab League's Secretary-General Nabil Al Araby admitted that troubling political developments had a deep bearing on the gains of development in the Arab world.

'Maximum efforts are required to support the Arab joint economic action, ' he added. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


UAE Ambassador to Poland attends International Defence Industry Exhibition

posted on 04/09/2015

WARSAW: Dr. Youssef Issa Hassan Al Sabri, UAE Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, has attended the opening of the 23rd International Defence Industry Exhibition, in Kielce, south of Warsaw.

550 companies in the defence industry, from 28 countries, are participating in the exhibition which is being held under the patronage of Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland.

The exhibition is an important opportunity to display products, military equipment and the latest technology in the field of armaments, making it a significant platform that brings together interested parties in the field of import and export of products related to the defence sector. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Emirates receives company record delivery of four new wide-body aircraft in one day

posted on 04/09/2015

Emirates has celebrated the company record arrival of four new aircraft in one day, affirming its commitment to flying a modern, efficient and comfortable fleet. The bumper delivery included two Boeing 777-300ERs, one Boeing 777 Freighter and one A380 aircraft.

Emirates is already the world's largest operator of the Boeing 777 and the A380. The A380 aircraft delivered this week brings the total number of this iconic double-decked aircraft in the Emirates fleet to 66. The additional three Boeing aircraft marks the 150th Emirates Boeing 777 delivery milestone, and takes the current Emirates 777 fleet size to 147. Emirates received its first Boeing 777 in 1996, and has since retired three older 777 aircraft from service. With a range of up to 17,446 kilometres or 9,420 nautical miles, Emirates' Boeing 777s serve almost 100 destinations across six continents, enabling the airline to connect almost any two points on earth.

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, said, "The Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 are two of the most advanced, efficient, and spacious commercial aircraft in the skies today. They are the mainstay of the Emirates fleet, giving us versatility in our route planning, and also the ability to offer our customers the latest features and comforts on-board.

"Our long-standing commitments to both aircraft programmes continue to support jobs and innovation across the aerospace manufacturing supply chain around the world, particularly in the USA and Europe. And we will continue to work closely with both manufacturers to raise the bar on operational efficiency and on-board product features."

The four new aircraft are valued at $1.5 billion and underwent pre-service maintenance checks before being put into regular service. The maiden flights for the two Boeing 777-300ERs took passengers from Dubai to Kuwait and Mumbai, while the first flight for the new A380 took off from Dubai to Dusseldorf. The Boeing 777 freighter was scheduled to fly directly from the Seattle area, where it was manufactured, to Hong Kong to pick up 103,000 kg of cargo.

Emirates has received 14 new aircraft so far in 2015, which include eight A380s, four Boeing 777-300ERs and one Boeing 777 Freighter. During the same period, the airline retired eight aircraft, comprised of four A340-500s, three A330-200s and one Boeing 777-200. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Emirates NBD UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index

posted on 04/09/2015

Growth of the UAE's non-oil private sector accelerated in August further from June's recent low. Business conditions improved at the strongest rate in six months, driven by sharper expansions in output and new orders. Marked growth of new work resulted in greater pressure on operating capacity, however, as backlogs of work rose at the quickest pace since the survey began in August 2009. On the price front, charges fell for the sixth time in seven months, contrasting with a further rise in input costs.

The survey, sponsored by Emirates NBD and produced by Markit, contains original data collected from a monthly survey of business conditions in the UAE non-oil private sector.

Commenting on the Emirates NBD UAE PMI, Khatija Haque, Head of MENA Research at Emirates NBD, said, "The sharp rise in the UAE PMI in August confirms our view that Ramadan likely contributed to the softer readings in June and July. Encouragingly, new orders and output growth readings remain high, suggesting strong domestic demand. Slower growth in export orders last month may reflect the impact of currency appreciation relative to other emerging markets."

Adjusted for seasonal influences, the headline Emirates NBD UAE Purchasing Managers' Index, a composite indicator designed to give an accurate overview of operating conditions in the non-oil private sector economy, climbed to a six-month high of 57.1 in August, from 55.8 in July. The latest reading was indicative of a robust improvement in business conditions, and pointed to a further acceleration in growth from the 22-month low seen at the end of Q2.

The rise in the headline index was underpinned by sharper growth of two of its main components in August, namely output and new orders. Activity rose at the fastest pace since February, while the rate of expansion in new business was a four-month high. Anecdotal evidence linked output growth to stronger client demand, which was in turn attributed to promotional activities and a general improvement in market conditions.

That said, data suggested that a slowdown in export growth weighed on total new work during August. Although solid, the rate of expansion eased to a two-year low.

Purchasing activity at UAE non-oil private sector firms rose further in August, extending the current sequence of growth which has run for more than five years. The pace of increase picked up to a seven-month high, similar to the trends seen for output and new work inflows. Subsequently, input stocks rose more quickly in August.

Non-oil private sector employment in the UAE also increased, reflective of greater business requirements. However, the rate of job creation was only moderate overall, and remained below the average registered in 2015 so far.

A further by-product of stronger order books was growth of outstanding business in August. In fact, the rate of backlog accumulation quickened to a survey-record high.

Meanwhile, average tariffs decreased for the sixth time in the past seven months during August. This was despite another solid rise in total input costs. According to panellists, greater competition was the main factor placing downward pressure on selling prices, although the rate of decline was only slight overall.

In contrast, the rate of cost inflation was at a seven-month high, helped by further rises in both salaries and purchasing costs. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Dubai Chamber workshop sheds light on provisions of new Commercial Companies Law

posted on 04/09/2015

Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently organised a workshop in association with the Baker and McKenzie Habib Al Mulla law firm, highlighting the notable changes introduced by the new Commercial Companies Law.

The workshop, which was attended by Dubai Chamber members, lawyers and legal consultants, investors, contract specialists, general managers and business owners, provided insights into the provisions of the new Commercial Companies Law while assessing its impact on companies operating in the country.

Ms. Jehad Kazim, Director, Legal Services, Dubai Chamber, said, "The new UAE Commercial Companies Law No. 2, which replaced Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, came into force in July this year and aims to promote the rules of governance and corporate social responsibility, protect the rights of shareholders and partners, and support the flow of FDIs to the country.'' She stressed that companies in the UAE have been given a year from the launch date to comply with the provisions of the new law, therefore it is of prime importance to understand how it impacts a company, whether it is a Limited Liability Company, LLC, or a Public Joint Stock Company, PJSC.

"This workshop, which dealt with the provisions of the new Commercial Companies Law for foreign companies while also highlighting how different the new law is from the previous law, will go a long way in helping UAE companies to adopt the new law within the set time limit," she added.

Dubai Chamber regularly organises training, seminars and workshops to serve the business community in boosting their trade and contributing to the economic growth of Dubai. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Reem says hello to Yas Island

posted on 04/09/2015

If there was a Yas Island competition for employee of the month, it is likely that last month's prize would have been awarded to a multilingual expat from Barcelona called Reem.

Standing 1.7 metres tall and weighing a robust 100 kilograms, Reem not only worked eight hours every day for the whole month, but also performed as a children's entertainer and a source of tourist information.

She led two promotional campaigns and an island-wide treasure hunt and even starred in her own short film, which received more than 150,000 views on Facebook.

Reem is a robot, and as she toured the food court linking Yas Mall with Ferrari World on her last day of service, it was clear that, as a marketing tool, her eight-hour batteries give her the power to turn heads.

"It is very interesting to have a machine interacting with you,” says Prof Klaus Weber, a German academic who was one of the few visitors to walk straight up to the robot and use its chest-mounted touchscreen to request a shake of the hand.

"I've seen something like this before on television. Our chancellor, Mrs Merkel, recently opened an exhibition in Japan that had robots like this, but I've never seen anything like this before in person.”

As shoppers posed for selfies with the robot and young children fidgeted nervously, they failed to notice the robot's "handler”, Jordan Palacios, who watched from a nearby table.

A software engineer with the Barcelona-based Pal Robotics, the Abu Dhabi-owned and funded company responsible for Reem's programming, design and manufacture, Mr Palacios is charged with keeping an eye on the Dh620,000 machine and using a touchscreen remote control to guide its movements.

"This is the first time I've worked in a live ‘demo' environment, which is wonderful for me because it's a validation of my work,” the Catalan says.

"I'm a programmer, so every day, I work in front of a screen writing lots of code. So it's rare for me to see the product in action but you can really see people interact with the robot here and, for me, that's great.”

Reem is a semi-autonomous robot, which means she does some things for herself but needs assistance with others – especially in an environment as busy, loud and confusing as a mall.

"It can navigate and if you have a map, you can also point it in that direction and the robot will find a location by itself, but for other things, like when the robot interacts with people, the operator can assist,” Mr Palacios says.

"In a quieter area, the robot would be able to hear very clearly and would be able to respond with pre-programmed responses.

"In this kind of environment, where faces and voices can get mixed, the robot may not understand exactly who is giving a command, but as the technology advances and when we are able to get the speech recognition right, the less help the robot will require.”

Before Reem went to Yas Island, the challenge of enhancing her face and speech recognition was presented to a team at the Khalifa University Robotics Institute (Kuri), who were given access to the robot for more than a week as part of a joint project with Pal Robotics.

"We developed a programme to allow the robot to concentrate on one person at events, such as exhibitions, when a lot of people would be talking,” says postgraduate student Randa Almadhoun, 22, one of the Kuri students who worked with Reem.

"It depends on localising a person's voice and face so if the person talking to the robot ends their conversation and leaves, the programme would allow the robot to recognise and start a conversation with somebody else.”

Like many of the projects under way at Kuri, the "audiovisual interaction technology” developed for Reem is still a work in progress.

But the idea is to produce a program that can be used by Pal Robotics and by Kuri for research to be used in its own robots.

The tangible evidence of those efforts can be seen in Kuri's lab at the university's Abu Dhabi campus. It is filled with whiteboards covered in handwritten code, industrial-looking robotic arms, wheeled vehicles that look like bomb-disposal devices and smaller white and orange figurines that appear to be little more than toys.

"From an intelligence point of view, they are like toys,” says Tarek Taha, one of Kuri's post-doctoral research fellows.

"There's nothing intelligent about them other than their sensing abilities, but the robots are very good at providing therapy to children with autism because they are less stimulating than a human might be.”

Despite their size and their use of a combination of voice commands and tablet computers, the robots display a quality that might almost be described as patience.

"The robot needs an awareness that there is a human in front of it to be able to respond in a convincing manner and to use behaviour that is actually part of the interaction scenario,” Mr Taha says.

"It also has to keep on monitoring the child to understand what step they are at during a learning session, evaluate whether they have finished the section correctly, repeat the exercise if they haven't or continue if they have.”

Although it is not Kuri's only research interest, the issues surrounding human-robot interaction are at the heart of its most innovative research projects.

One is what Mr Taha describes as an exercise in "cloud robotics”, a Kuri project that would enable robots to care for the elderly in their own homes.

"The robots would assist elders, not just by performing pre-programmed tasks, but through learning new behaviours that don't already exist inside the robot,” the academic says.

"For example, if a robot is trying to cook something or perform a cleaning task, it can simply scan the web or a database of collective cloud knowledge, then come back and say, ‘OK, I didn't know how to do that before but I do now'.”

As with the solution for Pal's Reem, the most profound obstacles facing anyone who wants to create a robot capable of acting independently, intelligently and of assessing their situation and sharing information are intangible.

They depend as much on an understanding of human behaviour as they do on the creation of machines.

"People underestimate the complexity of artificial intelligence and robotics software, but that's the core of robotics these days,” says Mr Taha.

"The foundation that you have to learn is that to actually achieve anything in robotics is far beyond the mechanical or the creation of a physical robot. Moving something around is easy.”

Hend Al Tair's "Collaboration Engine” is a case in a point. Her engine will consist of little more than a series of algorithms and protocols when it is finished, but if it is a success the results will allow humans and robots to work together.

"I describe it as an engine or a framework for collaboration itself,” says Ms Al Tair, 29, a PhD student from Ras Al Khaimah.

"How can I measure and enhance the collaboration between the team members, human and robot, and how can this work be enhanced during a mission?

"Humans can obviously talk to one another or look at something and then know what they have to do, but how will the robots do that.

"Let's say robots are required to look for a radiation source. They should be able to look around, understand when they have or haven't found the radiation, and then share that information with the rest of the team.

"In this scenario, the action the robot takes affects its behaviour at a local scale, but it also affects the behaviour of the group.”

If the implications of Ms Al Tair's research sounds like the stuff of science fiction, Mr Taha insists that it rests on techniques and lessons such as reinforcement learning.

"Reinforcement learning is similar to the way that children learn with negative and positive reinforcement. In the context of robotics, that means designing reward functions that guide behaviour and the idea is to define problems in a way that, if the robot takes multiple actions, will allow it to maximise its reward at the end.”

Despite their talk of programs and algorithms, procedures and protocols, it is the researcher's constant return to the subject of human interaction and learning, cooperation and understanding that is most striking.

Ultimately, the factors that may define a robot's success are the same as those that make us human.

But for Mr Taha, meaningful progress will require artificial intelligence that allows robots to learn without pre-programming or human intervention, and a change in human behaviour.

"If you are looking at human-robot interaction, the expectation normally outstrips the reality. People expect them to have the same intelligence as a human but that is not correct.

"Then they adjust their expectations and they can sometimes show their frustration. They end up thinking they're dealing with a bumbling toy.

"But I think roboticists also overstate the progress of their research. They make lots of claims and promises, but we are still not advancing as fast as we would like.

"I think we are still very far away from achieving AI.” – The National -


UAE Swim Team wins 15 GCC Championship medals

posted on 04/09/2015

DOHA: The UAE swimming team has been awarded 15 medals, including eight gold, four silver and three bronze, at the 25th GCC Swimming Championship, currently being held in Qatar. This makes the UAE team runner-up to Qatar with a difference of 5 golds, and thus the closest it has ever been to obtaining the GCC title in the championship's history.

Yaaqub Al Saadi from Al Ain Swimming Club succeeded in achieving a new international and personal best in the 200 metres backstroke with a time of 58:34 seconds, he also achieved another personal record by winning three gold medals.

Ahmad Al Hosani was awarded the gold medal in the 50 metres freestyle, and silver went to Mohammed Jasim. Mubarak Salem won gold medals for 50 and 100 metres breaststroke, while Mohammed Al Ghaferi won gold medals in the 50 metres backstroke and 50 metres butterfly. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Team Etisalat sets off from Brussels on mHealth Grand Cycle Tour

posted on 04/09/2015

A team of riders representing Etisalat Group yesterday set off from Brussels to compete in the 2015 mHealth Grand Cycle Tour. The gruelling 1,500km event will pass through three European countries, finishing 10 days later in Geneva.

The aim of the tour is to raise awareness about diabetes, while providing an ideal opportunity to test and further develop mobile health solutions (mHealth) which aims at improving the day-to-day life for diabetics.

Members of Team Etisalat were selected from volunteers to participate in the event from across its international footprint. The team comprises 11 Etisalat employees of 8 different nationalities, as well as a long-standing Etisalat customer.

Commenting on the event, Dr. Ahmed Bin Ali, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications, Etisalat Group, said, "Etisalat is proud to be supporting and participating in this year's mHealth Grand Cycle Tour. It provides a global platform to promote issues surrounding diabetes, a condition which affects millions of people around the world. In addition, the tour is the ideal opportunity to provide the impetus which will enable further develop of the mobile technology that is playing an increasingly critical role in delivering healthcare solutions."

Etisalat has equipped its riders with advanced vital performance monitoring tools integrated into their uniforms and through wearable devices. The devices will work using Etisalat's award winning Mobile Connect platform, providing real time critical data and analysis to riders and their coaches and medical practitioners.

Diabetes is a syndrome that affects 387 million people, or 8.3% of the global population, according to figures from 2014. Its growth shows no sign of slowing, and the International Diabetes Federation estimates that there will be close to 592 million people with the condition by 2035. The impact of diabetes is felt particularly strongly in MENA with one in ten adults in the region believed to be diabetic.

After setting off from Brussels, Stage 1 will end in Paris two days later. Part of Stage 1 will take in a stage of this year's Tour de France 2015. Stage 2 sees the riders leave Paris, crossing the Vosges before ending in Belfort from where Stage 3 begins. During the final stage, the riders will tackle a mountain profile stage in the Alps before finishing in Geneva on 12th September. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Local talent must be nurtured: Dr Mohammed bin Sulayem

posted on 04/09/2015

Former rally ace Dr Mohammed bin Suleyam said the future of motorsport in the region depended solely on how far local talent could be tapped and nurtured.

"Motor sport in the UAE has witnessed great development and expansion in a relatively short space of time and our responsibility is to maintain what has been achieved so far and ensure that this growth is sustainable.

"We have an exciting season ahead, with a busy calendar of prominent local and international motor sport events. The coming season of motor sport in UAE spotlights another big commitment to build for the future by attracting and developing young local talents," said Sulayem, chairman, Emirates Motor Sports Federation (EMSF) at a media announcement of the ruling body's calendar for 2015-16, on Wednesday at the EMSF office in Dubai.

Sulayem was joined at the Press conference by Khalid Issa Al Midfa, assistant secretary-general of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare along with senior representatives.

The UAE Rotax Max Challenge, the National Karting Championship organised by Al Ain Raceway, takes off on September 25. The new season is characterised by the growing popularity of karting, expansion of the national Baja rally series, and a strong line-up of international circuit racing events.

For this year's 12-round National Karting Championship, run between Dubai Kartdrome, Al Ain Raceway, Al Forsan, Yas Marina Circuit and again crossing the border to Seeb in Oman, the ATCUAE has issued 110 competitor licences, an increase of 10 per cent on last year. The annual 'O' Plate held at the Dubai Kartdrome has also gone from strength to strength and has attracted many international drivers.

The Emirates Desert Championship, the new national Baja rally series launched in 2013 for cars, buggies, motor cycles and quads, has quickly become a major attraction, and the first out of six rounds will be run on October 9.

The UAE National Rally Championship, launched last year by the Emirates Motorsport Club (EMC), will run this year starting on October 2. The EMC Rally for conventional rally cars aims to continue last year's success and help drive the sport forward in the years ahead.

"This season's events are special events for myself, and for all those who have competed in them down the years, in addition, they are full of opportunities for the young talents in many different areas in the motor sport world," Sulayem said.

The F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix guarantees another spectacular November race weekend at Yas Marina Circuit, the main attraction on this occasion being supported by the GP2 and GP3 series.

Other prominent events include the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East; UAE Touring Car Championship; the UAE Radical Winter Cup; FG1000 single seaters; and the Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina Circuit in December supported by the Maserati Trofeo Championship, and the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai in January at the Dubai Autodrome which will be its 11th Edition.

Once again prominent on the calendar are the Dubai International Rally, the UAE's longest- running international sports fixture, and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the Middle East's first world championship motor sport event.

The 37th Dubai Rally brings the 2015 FIA Middle East Championship to a climax on 19-21 November while the Desert Challenge will be run from the 2nd to the 7th of April as part of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

Added to the Emirates Desert Championship and the big international stage are the Desert Challenge and the Sportsbike Championship at the Dubai Autodrome with 600 cc and rookies classes, as well as the popular National Motocross series. – Khaleej Times -