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Abu Dhabi, 26 November 2015

His Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University, witnessed the signing of an agreement that sees ICT Fund pledge 1.5 million USD to the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) at Khalifa University’s Abu Dhabi campus on November 22, 2015. The agreement sees ICT Fund become Strategic Partners in the Khalifa University managed event, where teams from around the world will compete for 5 million USD in prizes in 2017. 

H.E. Dr.  Abdulqader Al Khayat, ICT Fund Chairman, said, “Financing this competition is an embodiment of our wise leadership’s vision of making UAE a pioneer in innovation during the coming seven years. It is also in line with the National Innovation Strategy which is considered an essential tool for development and a key enabler for the achievement of 2021 goals. We support UAE in acquiring a leading international position in innovation, which is considered an indispensable requirement for elevating its competitiveness.”   

H.E. Saeed Al Suwaidi, TRA Deputy Director General for Support Services Sector: “We aim through our support to the competition to empower UAE to achieve more qualitative leaps in technology advancement. Supporting this competition also comes in line with ICT Fund’s strategy that aims at fostering innovation and UAE knowledge capital through financing scientific research. As participation in the competition requires conducting research and finding innovative solutions, which will stimulate participants to unleash their creativity ,enrich their knowledge and broaden their horizon”

To date, MBZIRC has received 143 applications from 35 countries, with most of the applications coming from leading robotics laboratories at top universities. 

Some of the international universities represented are major institutions from the United States such as Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Cal Tech, and more, as well as European universities such as the University of Seville, the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, ETH Zurich and the University of Edinburgh.  Asian universities represented include the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Tokyo University and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. 

MBZIRC has attracted a great deal of interest from around the world. Other countries represented in the applications include Greece, Tunisia, Austria, Thailand, Croatia, Poland, Bangladesh, Mexico, Canada and China. 

“I would like to thank ICT Fund for their continued support for this international project and would also like to welcome them as a strategic partner to the challenge.” Said Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Khalifa University’s Executive Vice President. “This sponsorship demonstrates the strong support given by the government to promote innovation in the UAE and their commitment to turning the UAE into a global center for innovation and research. MBZIRC will bring together world leaders in the field of robotics in Abu Dhabi. The high level of attention the MBZIRC has received shows the great demand for cutting-edge technologies and innovation, especially since challenges like this stimulate technological progress.” 

He also said: “There will  undoubtedly be strategies and developments made during the course of this challenge that will have long lasting impact on the field of robotics, and collaborations that will lead to groundbreaking invention. We are pleased to welcome ICT Fund as a strategic partner, and thank them for their support.” 

Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mualla, Senior Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at Khalifa University said: "The a large number of applications submitted to the MBZIRC by top robotic labs from all over the world is a testament to the reputation this Challenge has acquired as one of the most important international challenges in this area. This puts MBZIRC on track to achieve its mission which is to contribute effectively to shaping the future of robotics in the world. We would like to thank ICT Fund for supporting MBZIRC, which will have a significant impact on the confirmation of the UAE’s leading position in the field of science, technology and innovation. "

The inaugural competition for MBZIRC will consist of three Challenges and a triathlon type “Grand Challenge”. It will take place in an outdoor open arena the approximate size of a football pitch. Challenge 1 requires an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to locate, track and land on top of a moving ground vehicle. Challenge 2 requires an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to locate and reach a second ground vehicle, and locate and physically operate a valve on a side of the vehicle. Challenge 3 requires a team of UAVs to collaborate to search, locate, track, pick and place a set of static and moving objects. The Grand Challenge requires a team of robots (UAVs and UGVs) to compete in an event that combines Challenges 1, 2 and 3.  

The applications will be under review until the end of 2015, with finalists announced in 2016.