The impact of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) has continued to positively impact industry throughout 2023, and Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) has played an increasingly prominent role as part of the global research community.

Delivering a state-of-the-university address at the university’s Masdar City campus, President and University Professor, Eric Xing, highlighted MBZUAI’s success in increasing the diversity of its faculty and graduate community in 2023, as well as the progress made in building industrial capabilities by working on major application projects in collaboration with leading global partners.

These included the development of cutting-edge large language models (LLM) and software infrastructure such as Jais, the most advanced Arabic LLM, in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based technology group Core42, a subsidiary of G42, and Cerebras Systems. A joint team of researchers from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Stanford, and MBZUAI also developed Vicuna, a sustainable LLM that was released during the year. The recent unveiling of Jais Climate for COP28 UAE marked the world’s first bilingual LLM dedicated to climate intelligence and was also developed alongside Core42. In collaboration with Petuum and Cerebras Systems, MBZUAI launched LLM360 – a large language model release framework that fosters transparency, trust and collaborative research.

Eric Xing said: “Our university has developed a significant array of intellectual assets and plays host to a remarkable pool of talent, which has enabled us to play a key research and development role in the field of generative AI.

“We are actively training the next generation of AI specialists who will contribute to and even elevate the level of knowledge and excellence in this important area of human development. I am very proud that we have achieved so much in just four years of operation – with a host of milestones yet to come.”

The launch of the Institute of Foundation Models (IFM), combined with the new MBZUAI Metaverse Centre (MMC), cements the university at the forefront of GenAI development. As one of a few institutes worldwide that can deliver such advanced applications, MBZUAI remains dedicated to furthering open-source and transparent research to propel advancements forward. As such, MBZUAI is the only UAE institution to become a founding member of the AI Alliance – a coalition of more than 50 companies and research institutions led by IBM – which aims to responsibly accelerate and democratise access to AI for users around the world.

With health one of three key research pillars, MBZUAI has emerged as a significant force in the digital healthcare space, partnering with some of the world’s most active and innovative start-ups in joint IP generation and signing agreements with Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, PureHealth, Quris-AI, Infinite Brain Technologies, and Emirates Health Services during the year.  

As a result of its research focus and success in attracting some of the world’s brightest minds, MBZUAI entered the CSRankings in 2022 and has risen to 18th globally for artificial intelligence (AI), CV, ML, and NLP disciplines

The MBZUAI faculty grew to 64 members in 2023, with more than half hailing from the top 100 AI institutions. The university’s first two commencements were hosted – January (Class of 2022) and June (Class of 2023) – with 111 students graduating with a master’s degree in computer vision, machine learning, or natural language processing (NLP). Reflecting the university’s mission to develop, train, and retain talent for the UAE’s economy, 86% of alumni have remained in the local AI ecosystem.

The number of students increased to 276, representing more than 40 nationalities, with a significant proportion joining from leading global undergraduate institutions. A total of 19% of the student population are Emirati and 39% female, significantly higher than other computer science institutions globally.  

MBZUAI established two new departments in 2023 -dedicated to robotics and computer science and the MBZUAI Incubation and Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC) to further develop the UAE’s AI ecosystem and contribute to the global development of innovation and advanced AI solutions.

The university received its first patent from the US Patent Office during the year, titled System and Method for Handwriting Generation, which is a vision transformer-based solution that can generate handwriting mimicking the exact handwriting style of a person whose example data has been inputted. The invention is one of several MBZUAI faculty and students currently registered with international patent organisations.

The MBZUAI community published more than 537 papers in the past 12 months and initiated eight funded research collaborations. Highlights include faculty and students delivering 30 papers at the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) held in Paris, France, in October, 44 papers at Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) held in Singapore in December, and 53 papers at the 37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) in December 2023 in New Orleans.

Two MBZUAI Executive Program (MEP) cohorts graduated, equipping a further 125 high-level executives with the capabilities to deliver the benefits of AI within the UAE industry. MBZUAI also played an active role in the successful COP28 UAE, participating in a range of events in the Greening Education Hub organised by the Ministry of Education to reinforce the key role that AI could play in meeting climate change targets and the importance of it being integrated into the curriculum.