Illustration by Joaquín Kunkel

Memorandum of Understanding between NYUAD and Abu Dhabi Airports

With an aim to foster innovation, the Memorandum of Understanding will create new opportunities for the student body and faculty at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Feb 17, 2018

On Jan. 16, NYU Abu Dhabi agreed to its first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi airports to foster innovation in aviation through research, technology, and knowledge exchange. This agreement was signed by Abdul Majeed Al Khoori, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, and NYUAD Vice Chancellor Al Bloom.
“Contributing to the Year of Zayed initiative, this remarkable opportunity will uphold the visionary’s values through a number of events and activities that focuses on innovation and development. The initiative expresses the late Sheikh Zayed’s legacy to encourage, engage, and inspire the younger generation who are the future makers and builders of the aviation industry,” commented Al Khoori.
Bloom also expressed his optimism towards future opportunities to be initiated by MoU.
“Developing this partnership with Abu Dhabi Airports offers the university a stunning opportunity to work with the Abu Dhabi government to strengthen the Emirate’s connections with the world – connections that will draw new knowledge, enriched cultural energy, and increased economic opportunity from around the globe and that will allow the Emirate to contribute its own intellectual discovery and its own educational and humane vision more effectively to that world."
In an interview with The Gazelle, Professor Samer Madanat, Dean of Engineering, revealed the long-term and short-term results of this agreement. According to Madanat, this project has a vision of involving NYUAD in the planning of Abu Dhabi Airports’ new midfield terminal, which is expected to be completed in around 2 years.
“Abu Dhabi Airports wants to make this terminal the smartest in the world in order to make the experience of passengers as smooth as possible. There is a whole range of potential ideas we can work on together to achieve this objective. These include long-term research objectives which would count for 90% of our work, but also consulting purposes which would count for 10%,” said Madanat.
The benefits to NYUAD from this Memorandum may not be clear to the general public, though they are many.
Madanat elucidated, “We are currently preparing for Abu Dhabi Airports to fund an airport research center established in our university. This could create huge internship and research opportunities for engineering students with their capstones as well as graduate and postdoctoral researchers focusing on airports and aviation. It can develop new core classes as well. Other departments will also benefit. There will be opportunities for the arts, social sciences particularly Economics, and the sciences, mainly computer science or even biology with disease detection.”
In an attempt to clarify how fields other than engineering could benefit from this agreement, Madanat listed a number of future plans NYUAD and Abu Dhabi Airports are hoping to develop.
“80% of passengers at the Abu Dhabi airport are transiting, while 20% are there as a point of departure or destination. We need to create things to do for people with long layovers. For example, enhancing the art displays, or building a museum of aviation within one of the older terminals. We could develop sensors to measure the flow of passengers and automatically open more lines in times of congestion. We can use robots in luggage handling, make the security check quicker, and reduce the time it takes overall. We need higher quality restaurants, and retail outlet.” clarified Madanat.
Concerning the short-term objectives of the Memorandum, it seems that faculty members would be the main beneficiaries and contributors.
“In a short-term perspective, we are aiming to provide some consulting advice from a third non-bias party to Abu Dhabi Airports. For instance, we can advise on whether certain practices are the best and most efficient to be carried out. There are faculty members here who are experts in the domain and have carried research in the area for a while. Besides, we can bring in our strong networks and collaborators,” added Madanat.
Effectively, it seems that this Memorandum has the potential to create future opportunities for NYUAD’s student body and faculty. Professor Madanat highlighted that the reason that NYUAD was the first choice for this Memorandum rather than any other institution is because of its international experience, competitive nature, and important networks. In fact, this reputation has led to a second Memorandum of Understanding signed with Abu Dhabi Ports on Feb. 5.
“We have had offers from other organizations. We are currently exploring, but nothing is newly signed. In reality, Memorandums of Understanding do not mean much. It is like an acknowledgement of friendship. It is what we build from it that matters. We are trying to do beyond that and turn them into real opportunities,” concluded Madanat.
Hind Ait Mout is News Editor. Email her at
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