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Sharjah Ruler at Cambridge Research Centre launch

Sharjah, (UAE): His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Member of Supreme Council of the UAE, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of American University of Sharjah (AUS) attended the launch of the Middle East Leadership Research Centre (MELRC) of the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School held at AUS today. 

The event was also attended by His Excellency Sheikh Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Urban Planning Council; Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairperson, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority; Sheikh Tariq Bin Faisal Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi; members of the AUS Board of Trustees; and a number of senior dignitaries from academia and the business world who discussed the best approach to developing a repository of relevant research-based business expertise in and for the region.

Scores of business leaders, policy makers and business school students took part in the launch, which comprised two high-level panel discussions and two keynote addresses. The MELRC will mainly operate virtually and will not have a physical campus, but will hold regular events and programs in conjunction with partners based around the Middle East. It will build on an eight-year legacy of leadership and management development programs offered by Cambridge Judge Business School for Gulf Region based organizations. 

In his introductory comments, Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and Chairman of the Cambridge University Judge Business School Alumni Council, highlighted the role that the emirate of Sharjah has played in advancing cooperation between the UAE and international educational centers of excellence. “As Chair of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School Alumni Council and as a member of the Business Advisory Council of American University of Sharjah, I speak from personal experience when I say that these two centers of excellence have a shared interest in engaging with business and industry at both an international level and as well as a regional level. I would like to pay tribute to the strength of the ties between the University of Cambridge and AUS which has been encouraged and nurtured for many years now by His Highness”.

Speaking about the new center, the Dean of Cambridge Judge Business School, Professor Christoph Loch, said, “We are engaging in the context of executive education with organizations in problems where knowledge is co-created, where there is not a one-way street of wisdom that we are imparting to others. It is a spirit of engagement with these organizations to understand the challenges that they are really facing to work with them on creating new solutions which work for them and which may also be lessons to share with other organizations.” 

A stellar list of business leaders then lent their insights to the panel entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Growth and Diversification of Businesses in the Middle East’ included Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qassimi; Khalid A. Al-Falih, President and CEO of Saudi Aramco; Khalaf Al Habtoor, Chairman, Al Habtoor Group; and Dr. Tawfeeq Almoayed, Founding Chairman and Managing Director, Gulf Petro-Chemical Industries Company. 

Addressing the panel, Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour spoke of the need to encourage creative thinking in the region. She said that the region has a large population of young people and that it is important for the youth to think and act independently and to take action rather than relying on the government. “The youth needs to be encouraged so that they pursue their business aspirations,” she said and added that we have a huge opportunity with young men and women who can challenge the old way of thinking and doing business. She said the education system needs to change to reflect the needs of the times and to inculcate an environment where independent thinking and asking questions is encouraged.

Commenting on the achievements of the UAE, Al Habtoor said that though the UAE is relatively young, the visions and hopes of its people have been with them since their ancestors. He added that human capital was the biggest challenge that needs to be addressed for the future.

Sharing his three-decades experience in leadership roles at Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company in terms of resources, Al-Falih said that the GCC is doing extremely well with the region currently experiencing one of the longest periods of growth. He commended the efforts being put into building sectors other than oil and gas by governments throughout the region. “Generational sustainability is the key; we need to plan for a world without oil and gas,” he said.

Dr. Almoayed agreed stating that though we live in a conservative world, persuasion and dialogue is helping bring about a change in perspective. He also praised the Sharjah Ruler for his vision and said that University City was a perfect example of what a good leader can do for his people and country.

A keynote address was also given by Tirad Mahmoud, CEO of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), who shared his insights on banking and finance as it has developed and taken shape in the region.

The second panel entitled Corporate Governance and Business Policy: Spurring Greater Private-Sector Impact in the Middle East was addressed by Dr. Robert Grosse, Dean of the School of Business Administration, AUS; Celine Schreiber, Program Director at the Pearl Initiative; Professor Abu Bakr Ibrahim, Dean, College of Business Administration, University of Sharjah; Dr. Jane Davies, University Lecturer in Operations Management, University of Cambridge Judge Business School; Dr. Kamal Munir, Reader in Strategy and Policy, Head of Strategy and International Business Group, University of Cambridge Judge Business School; Karim Nassif, Director, Infrastructure Finance, Standard & Poors; as well as by Peter Hiscocks.

Speaking on the occasion, Peter Hiscocks, CEO of Cambridge Judge Business School Executive Education, said: “To launch our new centre amid such high caliber discussions and sharing of ideas was a wonderful experience. We are deeply grateful to His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al-Qasimi, for his support of the launch; to American University of Sharjah for hosting us, and to our distinguished guest speakers from the region, who so generously gave their time and expertise today to point us in the right direction in setting the agenda for the Middle East Leadership Research Centre.”

At the conclusion of the event, Dr. Thomas Hochstettler, Acting Chancellor of AUS, said that the AUS and Cambridge have strong bonds that go back a number of years. He said that faculty and students from the two institutions work together regularly as well as hold joint seminars and conferences frequently. “Over the years, AUS has benefitted immensely from the guidance and experience of prominent Cambridge faculty members some of who also serve on our board. Therefore, it gives us great pleasure to welcome Cambridge to AUS!” he added.
Subsequent to the event, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, visited the university’s Student Center where the Student Council elections were being held.

Sultan to attend launch of Research Centre 

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