Tata Center faculty Sanjay Sarma plays a vital role in expanding innovation among government leaders in the United Arab Emirates

MIT Professional Education and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation collaborate on a series of educational workshops.

sanjay sarma

Earlier this month, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation in Dubai signed an agreement with MIT Professional Education to launch a series of educational workshops aimed at fostering a spirit of innovation within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government and bringing it in line with the latest global innovation trends.

The agreement was signed by Huda Al Hashimi, executive director of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Center under the UAE prime minister’s office; Professor Sanjay Sarma, vice president of open education at MIT; and Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education. Also present at the ceremony were Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE minister of cabinet affairs, and Ohood Khalfan Al-Roumi, director general of the prime minister’s office.

“The agreement aims to exchange and transfer knowledge between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, and support the efforts of the cener to be counted among the top 10 countries in the world for innovation,” says Al Hashimi. “Our center’s mission is to disseminate innovation across the various functional levels of leadership in our government organizations, enabling senior government leaders, chief innovation officers, and directors of strategy to access the latest trends and best international practices.”

As part of the agreement, the first of three professional education courses from MIT, Radical Innovation, was launched on May 2 in Dubai. Taught by Sarma, the two-day course focused on identifying obstacles to innovation, reviewing and understanding different ways to incubate an innovative culture, and implementing innovative ideas and policies in government. The interactive, workshop-style course was attended by over 70 senior UAE government leaders, including undersecretaries, assistant undersecretaries, and general managers.

Dubai is no stranger to embracing innovation. On December 17, 2014, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the Dubai 2021 Plan, an ambitious project aimed to raise Dubai’s profile as one of the world’s top cities for business, culture, tourism, and government, as well as to reinforce its position as a pivotal hub in the global economy and a hotbed for innovation. Dubai also recently won the bid to host the World Expo in 2020 with a theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” to recognize the collaboration needed across cultures, nations, and regions in order to generate sustainable solutions to global challenges.

“The hunger for innovation is all-pervasive and palpable in Dubai,” says Bhaskar Pant. “From government to industry, the desire to learn and practice innovation is so strong that each of the three times we offered the Radical Innovation course in the city, it sold out soon after the announcement. We are indeed pleased to be able to contribute MIT knowledge and expertise toward helping the UAE achieve its Dubai 2021 Plan.”

Two additional MIT Professional Education workshop courses will be offered in Dubai over the next six months:

  • Design Thinking Through Making in October 2016, led by Professor Federico Casalegno, director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, will be aimed at chief innovation officers in various UAE government entities. This course will focus on designing innovative ideas to find effective solutions in government. Participants will engage in hands-on work in order to build prototypes of their solutions.
  • Management of Innovative Teams in December 2016, led by David Niño, senior lecturer in the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, will focus on effective tools for developing and managing teams who are charged with strategic innovation.

    “National economies, governments, companies, and even individuals are increasingly defined by their abilities in anticipating and shaping the future,” Sarma says. “Dubai exemplifies all of this and more, and our collaboration with Dubai is an exciting platform for addressing innovation at a grand scale.”