04 February 2009
Like major universities such as Harvard in Dubaï, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, the EPFL is now making its international development a reality. It is creating an active presence in the Middle East by developing a new campus in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Through a partnership with this Emirate that takes Switzerland for its model, the School will be able to expand its areas of research and place them in a new context. This long-term agreement will begin a new era for the institutes of technology in a region of the world undergoing rapid economic and scientific development.
Enjoying a high level of stability, the U.A.E. coastal federation has for several years been diversifying and developing on a scale unparalleled in the Middle East. The Emirates, which are reliant on their petroleum resources (7-9% of the world’s reserves), have become aware of the need to diversify their income and reduce their dependence on oil. While the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which has most of the oil resources, has become the political and cultural capital, and Dubai the financial and tourist capital, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is keeping pace with them in the areas of education, research and industrial development. With a population that is 80% international, these Emirates serve as the major development platform for the entire Middle East. Many leading companies and major universities are opening sites and campuses there. The rapidly-growing EPFL could not pass up such an opportunity. The answer proved to be RAK, a dynamic, quick-acting and very resourceful state where the EPFL will set up a new academic site.
The project will create a university campus that will be a new branch of the EPFL to provide many educational opportunities at the second- and third-cycle university level and to develop advanced research programs, especially for research related to the environment and to energy supply. Plans also call for creating a financial structure to be jointly owned (50/50) by the EPFL and RAKIA (RAK Investment Authority).
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our Emirate to benefit from the EPFL’s international reputation and its expertise in academics and technology transfer,” said Khater Massaad, RAKIA’s CEO. Mr. Masaad is a Swiss citizen who earned a mathematics degree at the EPFL and is also the founder and CEO of RAK Ceramics, the world’s leading ceramics company. RAKIA is the structure that is managing the Emirate’s economic development.
The RAK Investment Authority is financing the project. They will finance research (5 chairs) and educational programs in RAK, the acquisition of scientific and technical equipment, and infrastructure operations. The infrastructure equipment itself will be made available to the EPFL courtesy of RAK. The program also includes a scientific section dedicated to cooperation with the campus in Lausanne, which will lead to the creation of 5 “mirror” chairs in Switzerland and the development of joint projects.
“The creation of this offshore campus is a tremendous opportunity for the institutes of technology. Like the cooperative programs established in India by Lausanne’s EPFL and in China by Zurich’s ETHZ, it will allow us to develop targeted scientific partnerships that we could not have in Switzerland,” confirmed Patrick Aebischer, EPFL’s President.
In the coming months, the EPFL community and RAKIA will continue to develop teaching and research programs and make infrastructure available. A presentation on the entire project will be given during the second semester of 2009.
Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA)
Dr. Khater Massaad, CEO of RAK Investment Authority
Ph: + 971 7 244 50 46
Jérôme Grosse, Head of Communication
Cell phone: + 41 79 434 73 26