Abu Dhabi-UAE: The meeting of the International Technical Review Committee, which aims to identify and select the qualified research projects for the Fifth Cycle grant of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science (UAEREP), kicked off today at the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) in Abu Dhabi.

Running from 3 to 4 October 2023, the meeting marks the culmination of a month-long evaluation phase that commenced at the beginning of September, during which the committee meticulously assessed eight full proposals submitted by 64 researchers, scientists and experts affiliated with 35 institutions in 10 countries including the UAE. The committee comprised of global experts and specialists in weather modification applications, hydro-meteorology, weather and climate modeling, aerosol chemistry, cloud physics, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence.

The evaluation of full proposals will be based on a weighted scoring matrix composed of the following five criteria: (1) Overall Scientific and Technical Merit, Significance and Innovation (35%), (2) Investigator/Team (20%), (3) Approach (20%), (4) Capacity Building (15%), and (5) Resources and Budget (10%).

Earlier, the program unveiled the shortlisted pre-proposals from the initial evaluation phase, following a month-long evaluation process that culminated in the meeting of the International Technical Review Committee in Abu Dhabi in May 2023.

During the initial evaluation, UAEREP reviewed 46 pre-proposals drawn from 96 submissions presented by 504 researchers, scientists and specialists affiliated with 159 institutions across 37 countries spanning five continents. They were scored based on four evaluation criteria: Research impact and quality; experience of the proposers and the operational impact; multidisciplinary collaboration across academic and government partners; and the potential to enhance or transform the weather modification research community and industry in the UAE and across the globe.

His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of NCM and President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said: “In line with the directives of the UAE's wise leadership, NCM continues its efforts to advance scientific research in rain enhancement science as an effective tool to tackle global water security challenges. The remarkable research innovations presented by UAEREP awardees have significantly improved the impact and quality of rain enhancement operations both within the UAE and worldwide.”

Al Mandous added: “We are confident that the selections made by the International Technical Review Committee will bolster the scientific community efforts to find innovative rain enhancement solutions that enhance resilience against water scarcity, a direct consequence of climate change.

In its Fifth Cycle, the program introduced an additional eligibility criterion, requiring research proposals to achieve a minimum Technology Readiness Level (TRL) score of 6 or higher out of 9. This criterion ensures that research projects present a fully functional prototype or representational model within a relevant environment.

Alya Al Mazroui, Director of the UAEREP, said: “In the face of escalating climate change consequences worldwide, UAEREP’ reiterates its commitment to offering innovative technologies and solutions. By promoting the role of rain enhancement research, our goal is to augment rainfall in specific environmental conditions and scenarios.

She added: “The International Technical Review Committee's meticulous review of the full proposals will ensure that the selected research projects will make a qualitative addition to the field of rain enhancement research, both locally and globally. This rigorous selection process from the eight projects that advanced to the final stage resulted in the identification of cutting-edge research initiatives that hold great promise for the field of rain enhancement. The requirement for a TRL of 6 or higher has further elevated the quality of the selected research proposals, emphasizing the program's commitment to promoting innovative solutions with practical and transformative outcomes.”

UAEREP’s Fifth Cycle was launched in January 2023 during the opening day of the Sixth International Forum on Rain Enhancement (IREF) in Abu Dhabi. The program offers grants of up to US$1.5 Million distributed over three years to each winning research proposal. These grants offer crucial support to the awardees by facilitating partnerships with esteemed research institutions worldwide, including those within the UAE, thereby advancing the research projects' objectives.

The program’s continued success has solidified the UAE's pioneering status in the field of rain enhancement science. Furthermore, its efforts align with the UAE's role as the host for the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in November, reaffirming the country's dedication to promoting environmental sustainability on a broader scale.