|14 March, 2019

Ideas Abu Dhabi returns with line-up of inspiring global speakers

Two-day event returns to NYUAD on 27-28 March to tackle long-term challenges facing the world

Ideas Abu Dhabi returns with line-up of inspiring global speakers

Abu Dhabi: Ideas Abu Dhabi, a two-day ideas festival bringing together some of the brightest minds from the UAE and around the world to tackle complex global challenges, returns for the third time on 27-28 March.

Part invite-only Forum, part public Festival, Ideas Abu Dhabi will be held at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), on Saadiyat Island and features a powerful lineup of Emirati and international speakers from across government, business, academia, and media.

The 2019 Forum will focus on four specific tracks, each of which explores in depth some of the great challenges and opportunities of our time. Referred to as “moonshots”, the 2019 tracks will examine the challenges to the current global order; the latest efforts to understand and even enhance the human brain; the impacts of the oncoming revolutions in transportation; and the dangers of a new cyber battleground.


The Forum will be followed by an open-to-all public Festival packed with thought-provoking talks, interactive exhibits and workshops, and inspiring musical performances.

Ideas Abu Dhabi is held in association with the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organisation based in Washington, DC, and is hosted by Tamkeen, a company that delivers projects enriching Abu Dhabi’s social, cultural, and educational landscape.

Speaking ahead of Ideas Abu Dhabi, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, Dan Porterfield, said: “Ideas Abu Dhabi has rapidly become a premier opportunity for some of the most engaging thinkers and doers from across the world to meet, connect, and elevate compelling ideas. Tamkeen have been wonderful partners to the Aspen Institute in this venture, and we are thrilled to be returning to the UAE’s capital – a vibrant international hub that is always looking ahead to the future – to continue engaging with the vital issues of our time.”

A Special Fellows Programme will also run during the event, reflecting the critical role of young people in shaping the future of the UAE. Supported by the UAE Federal Youth Authority, the Special Fellows Programme is designed to expose future Emirati leaders to today’s global thinkers and industry experts. Following a rigorous selection process, ten high-achieving young Emirati Special Fellows have been selected to attend and participate in Ideas Abu Dhabi.

Saeed Al Nazari, Director General of the Federal Youth Authority, said: “One of the top priorities of the Federal Youth Authority is to empower and involve Emirati youth in critical discussions and debates on challenges of global importance. The Special Fellows Programme creates a platform in which young people of the UAE are exposed to some of the world’s most ground breaking thinking from world leaders and industry experts, and allows them to challenge their ideas and assumptions. The UAE Government attaches great importance to listening to the voices and contributions of the Emirati youth, and the Special Fellows Programme at Ideas Abu Dhabi allows us to do just that.”

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Moonshot #1 – From New World Order to None? Evolution & Crisis in Global Relations

After the fall of the Soviet Union, US President George H. W. Bush declared a ‘new world order’. Decades on and the system of international institutions and global relations that has defined the post-World War II era is under pressure. A fast-growing Asia and re-assertive Russia are pushing for change and exploring alternatives. Will the existing system limp along until a crisis forces it to adapt, or can it evolve to reflect new realities? This track will explore these and related questions.

 Speakers to include:

  • Hon. Gordon Brown, Former UK Prime Minister
  • Bill Emmott, Author, Chairman, International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • E. Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Professor in the Practice of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
  • Mina Al Oraibi, Editor-in-Chief, The National Newspaper
  • Matteo Renzi, Former Italian Prime Minister

Moonshot #2 – The Brain: unfolding the mystery

The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Despite decades of research and millions of dollars spent on scientific research we still have a limited understanding of how it truly works. Significant efforts are underway to revolutionise the way we understand, treat, and even enhance the brain. This track will explore pressing questions related to the science of the brain including: ’how far away are we from any real progress in curing brain diseases?’ and ‘what potential is there for upgrading our own cerebral hardware?’

 Speakers to include:

  • Anthony Geffen, Director, Atlantic Productions
  • Mary Lou Jepsen, Engineering Executive, Facebook
  • Professor Dr. José del R. Millán, Defitech Chair, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Daniel Tammet, Author and Autistic Savant

Moonshot #3 - Cyber: the new battleground?

The exponential growth of Internet connectivity – from phones and homes to businesses and governments – has created tremendous advances in knowledge, commerce, and education. At the same time, it poses new dangers to our personal and national security. High-profile cases have shown just how vulnerable our online lives have made us. Millions of people globally have seen their personal details go on sale on the dark web while hackers have locked out entire hospital systems seeking ransom payment in bitcoin.  The culprits are no longer visible, are scattered around the globe, and often have opaque motivations. This track will seek to shed light on these emerging threats and what can be done to counter them.

Speakers to include:

  • Betsy Cooper, Policy Director, Aspen Institute
  • Cassandra Kelly, Co-founder, Pottinger and Atomli Inc
  • Admiral Mike Rogers, Former Director of NSA
  • Nick Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, WIRED

Moonshot #4 - Faster, further for all: the future of transport

From self-driving cars and Hyperloop to sub-orbital commercial space travel, the way in which we travel is set to be revolutionised. This track will seek to explore whether the future technologies that will underpin this revolution are achievable, what impact they could have, and the challenges they pose against a backdrop of urban congestion, climate change, and a growing population.

Speakers include:

  • Anthony Geffen, Director, Atlantic Productions
  • Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and CTO, Virgin Hyperloop One
  • Lucy Hawking, Journalist, Educator, Philanthropist
  • Vik Kachoria, President & CEO, Spoke Aerospace, Inc.
  • Jack Stewart, Transport Journalist
  • Amin Toufani, Chair of Finance & Economics at Singularity University and CEO, T Labs

About Tamkeen

Tamkeen is a company that delivers projects to meet Abu Dhabi’s vision of knowledge-based development. This is achieved by collaborating with a variety of local and international institutions to enrich Abu Dhabi’s social, cultural and educational landscape in line with its Economic Vision 2030.

About The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization that has gained a reputation for gathering together diverse, nonpartisan thought leaders, creatives, scholars and members of the public in order to address some of the world’s most complex problems. Based in Washington, DC, the Institute has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and offices in New York City.

© Press Release 2019

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