Dubai Future Foundation and MIT ink deal to launch the Middle East’s first Senseable City Lab

The lab is a global MIT initiative to research and test pilot projects for planning urbanisation and the rapid growth of cities

Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) has signed an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to launch the region’s first-ever Senseable City Lab, a global MIT initiative that researches and tests pilot projects for planning urbanisation and the rapid growth of cities.

In a statement, DFF said the agreement was signed at the World Government Summit 2023 by Khalfan Belhoul, Chief Executive Officer of DFF, and Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT. Also in attendance were Abdulla Al Basti, Secretary General of The Executive Council of Dubai and His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Commissioner-General for Infrastructure, Urban Planning and Wellbeing Pillar and Chairman of the Supreme Committee of Urban Planning in Dubai.

Senseable City Lab conducts interdisciplinary research in Singapore, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Lagos, and now Dubai, where it will play a crucial role in addressing the challenges faced by cities in a fast-changing world. While cities occupy only 3% of the Earth’s land, they consume 70% of energy sources and account for 80% of CO2 emissions. To address this urgent and unsustainable imbalance, the lab aims to find innovative solutions to make cities more resilient and efficient, the statement explained.

Al Basti applauded the partnership and its potential to develop the technological skills needed to enhance future urban planning. He stated the partnership aims to create a scientific platform that harnesses the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the directives of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, to make Dubai a testbed and laboratory for scientific innovation.

In late September 2022, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan launched the Dubai Robotics and Automation Program.

He added, “The agreement with MIT emphasises Dubai’s focus on transforming innovations from concepts into reality, while developing new knowledge and tools to better serve our world and keep pace with Dubai’s future ambitions. The partnership’s research and development strategy focus on finding solutions to the most pressing challenges, working towards increasing productivity, developing services, enhancing economic resilience, and preparing for the future. Selecting Dubai as a headquarters for the MIT Senseable Lab enhances the city’s global role in the advancement of future cities through partnerships between government, private and academic sectors, with contributions from scientists, futurists, and innovators from the UAE and the around the world.”

Mattar Al Tayer added, “Dubai has adopted the newest innovations and technologies of the future to advance its cutting-edge infrastructure and realise its goals. It has become a global testbed for future technologies to achieve the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and reinforce Dubai’s position as one of the world’s leading cities of the future.”

The launch was accompanied by the establishment of the Senseable City Consortium Fellowship Program, which aims to empower and guide partners to implement actionable ideas to create change. It will also provide opportunities for companies in Dubai to engage with this interdisciplinary research to inform potential future innovations.

Carlo Ratti, Director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT stated, “We are proud to collaborate with the Dubai Future Foundation to bring the Senseable City Lab to Dubai. The city’s forward-thinking approach and its commitment to innovation make it the perfect location to explore some of the most pressing issues facing cities today.”

In early October 2022, Tobias Bauly, Project Director, Buro Happold discussed the engineering behind Dubai’s Museum of the Future with Middle East Construction News.

“The signing of this agreement marks a major step forward in Dubai’s journey towards becoming a smart and sustainable city. The Senseable City Lab and the Fellowship Program will play a vital role in creating knowledge and game-changing solutions for the urban environment that will benefit not only Dubai but cities around the world,” added Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of DFF.

The Senseable City Lab in Dubai is expected to have a significant impact on the development of smart cities in the region and the world. The launch of the MIT Lab represents a significant step forward in addressing the challenges of the future, and a commitment to making cities more sustainable and efficient for future generations, the statement concluded.

In early January 2023, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launched the Dubai Economic Agenda ‘D33’.

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