DEWA’s R&D Centre: National and international partnerships to advance R&D in energy and water to face future challenges

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    By ; Nelly All

     

    The UAE has made significant achievements in several areas since the formation of the UAE.  This has enhanced its competitiveness, leadership, excellence and global ranking. The UAE’s wise leadership has adopted ambitious strategies that focus on innovation, creativity, research and development (R&D). This enables capacity building, to keep pace with the latest developments internationally, and achieve sustainable development.

    The UAE ranked first across the MENA region, in the 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index, thanks to the proactive vision of our leadership. It was ranked 46th in the 2019 index and 44th in this year’s index, surpassing Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus, South Africa, India, Chile and Vietnam. The UAE ranked 30th in Productivity, and 32nd in Manufacturing Value Added, and 36th in R&D expenditure.

    The UAE has maintained its good standing in this year’s edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII) jumping two spots to 36th globally. The country has also achieved progress in the Innovation Input, and a significant improvement in several pillars of the GII. These include human capital and research. In the sub-indicators, the UAE has achieved progress in the indicator of global R&D companies’ expenditure, among others.

    The UAE strives to become the main destination for scholars, researchers and future makers, aiming to become a prominent incubator of R&D, by merging forces between the public and private sectors to achieve integration in different sectors, enhancing and diversifying partnerships, and benefiting from best practices and experiences locally and globally, to achieving sustainable development.

    DEWA’s R&D centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is an ideal example of public-private partnerships. The centre collaborates with several academic institutions, such as Stanford University; UAE University; Khalifa University of Science Technology; Sharjah University and Amity University to develop joint research in renewable and alternative energy.

    The R&D centre highlights four major operational areas: electricity generation from solar and clean energy, integration of smart grids, energy efficiency, and water. Its internal labs study and test system reliability, and it carries out external field testing of new technologies and equipment, including the performance and reliability of solar PV panels and removing dust. It is the only centre in the UAE that focuses on renewable energy, smart grid technologies, and energy efficiency. It includes the largest testing facilities in the UAE for PV and issuing compliance certificates. The centre conducts multiple and strenuous tests for PV panels in desert climate conditions.

    The centre consists of 37 researchers, including 20 PhD and master’s degree holders comprising 54% of the team. The team has published over 40 research papers in international conferences and scientific magazines. A patent has been recorded and 5 more are underway.

    The centre has launched the ‘Researcher’ programme to engage local and international universities in research and development, by sending the best technical candidates to work with DEWA researchers on different areas. The programme consists of four categories: training, funding graduation projects, visiting researchers, study groups and workshops.

    “The centre focuses on enhancing partnerships, especially among the academic community. This is in accordance with the wise leadership approach to harness all capabilities to anticipate the future, develop long-term proactive plans to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and innovate disruptive technologies to provide world-class services that enhance the quality of life in Dubai. The centre achieves national plans and strategies. These include the UAE Centennial 2071, a long-term government plan to prepare the UAE and young Emiratis for the future, the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031; the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050; and the Dubai 10X initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which mandates the Government of Dubai to be a global leader that is 10 years ahead of all other cities,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, on the centre’s role. “The centre is part of DEWA’s effort in developing the R&D sector and supporting it with national and international staff. The centre’s pioneering projects and quality partnerships support our vision to become a globally leading sustainable innovative corporation,” added Al Tayer.

    Collaboration with Stanford University

    DEWA collaborates with the US-based Stanford University in several areas of R&D, through the R&D Centre’s team and DEWA’s membership in Stanford’s ‘Energy 3.0’ programme. These areas include Radiative Cooling to improve the efficiency and performance of solar panels, the use of autonomous robots in the control and maintenance of solar power plants, and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to anticipate the performance and production of solar PV plants in the short term.

    Joining the Energy 3.0 Programme provides DEWA’s researchers with an important opportunity to take advantage of the global expertise and the environment for advanced research at Stanford University by ensuring they have access to best practices in electricity, water, AI, and smart networks. The programme also includes R&D in the fields of renewable energy, smart networks, energy efficiency and storage, and data analysis among others.

    “Collaboration with companies that have a long-term strategic outlook enables Stanford to create technologies, policies and business models that we expect to be deployed in the coming years and decades.  We expect to continue and in fact expand our engagements with DEWA to develop impactful research as we all try to help create this next era in energy,” said Jimmy Kuo-Wei Chen, Managing Director of Stanford University Companies.

    “DEWA joined the Stanford Energy 3.0 affiliate program in 2019 to support cutting edge energy research at Stanford in 3 areas of interest to DEWA. These include vital areas of DEWA’s work, which are Passive radiative cooling to improve solar cell efficiency,  real-time solar energy forecasting  and Haptic Robotics. The research results have been promising and DEWA is now considering establishing one or more sponsored research projects in these areas,” added Chen.

    MoU with UAE University

    DEWA signed an MoU with United Arab Emirates University (UAE University). The MoU worth over AED 15 million,  outlines the framework to conduct research to mitigate dust on solar panels. As per the MoU, UAE University is committed to conducting research, analytical studies, and internal and external tests, in cooperation with the R&D Centre.

    “The partnership also includes hosting DEWA’s ‘Researcher’ initiative at the Emirates Centre for Energy and Environment Research (ECEER). The ECEER provides logistical support to the initiative’s team for sharing knowledge and benefiting from the available resources and facilities. In its initial stages, it has already developed a support mechanism to graduation projects of the College of Engineering. Two energy projects are currently being evaluated,” said Dr. Abdulrahman Alraeesi, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, UAE University.

    “The academic-business partnerships align with the UAE’s direction and strategic priorities. This partnership remains, as it is the main driving force of both sectors’ success. The business sector needs strong and sustainable support from UAE nationals and residents to ensure stability and development. It has become necessary to focus on energy and water and enhance partnerships in those areas, especially with the tremendous development in the UAE in all areas, as well as the steady increase in population. This supports research and innovation in renewable and conventional energy. It also increases the efficiency of water desalination and diversifying water resources,” added Alraeesi.

    Partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology

    “As a top-ranked research-intensive academic institution focusing on the UAE’s strategic economic sectors, Khalifa University of Science and Technology is currently partnering with DEWA on water desalination, sharing our expertise in this critical area. We are also exploring future collaborations in solar energy, advanced materials and Industry 4.0 as part of our endeavour to reach out to vital economic areas such as utilities, which form the backdrop for building future smart cities. Such industry-academia partnerships lay the foundations for an effective knowledge-based economy in which each sector contributes to the other in a symbiotic relationship, expanding the benefits the communities will eventually obtain,” said Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President at the Khalifa University of Science and Technology.

    Collaboration with Sharjah University

    “We are facing several challenges related to water, energy and food security. However, the strong research in academic institutions and the directions of industrial sectors, qualify the UAE to face those challenges. Our partnership with DEWA enables us to find several solutions for future challenges. DEWA is also a prestigious destination for fresh graduates. We hope to continue collaborating with DEWA’s R&D centre in several areas. These include the ‘Researcher’ programme and other research by the faculty staff, and organising the panel discussions, seminars, and meetings of the Advisory Committee Programme,” said Dr. Abdul Hai Al-Alami Associate Chairman of Sustainable Renewable Energy, Sharjah University.

    Collaboration with Amity University Dubai

    DEWA and Amity University collaborate to conduct academic and applied research, to develop the renewable and alternative energy sector. Amity University provides support and training for DEWA’s students through scientific programmes with the supervision of both parties. This is aligned to DEWA’s strategy to build the capacity of its Emirati workforce to the highest standards, and empower them with the needed skills and experience to lead the future of energy, water, and sustainable development for Dubai. “Research and development are essential to improving our technical capabilities and creating processes, products and services that are innovative and impactful. As we work toward preparing for the next 50 years, investing in R&D and implementing new ideas has become more important for businesses. DEWA’s R&D Centre will play a crucial role in developing energy-efficient and sustainable solutions that can be integrated into the daily lives of Dubai’s residents. We are certain that the initiative will also bring research to the forefront for businesses across the UAE and inspire university and school students to get more involved,” said Dr. Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Education.

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