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A new centre for advanced materials research is being created for the United Arab Emirates to promote technology-based sustainable development in the Middle East.

The 6,000 square metre centre will be located in the emirate Ras Al Khaimah. Construction is due to begin early in 2008, and the centre is due to be operational later that year.

Research at the Ras Al Kaimah Centre for Advanced Materials will focus on a range of applications, including alternative energy sources, construction, water purification and environmental preservation.

Through this research, the centre aims to support local industries and spawn start-up companies to commercialise the new technologies. It will also provide educational and training programmes for scientists and engineers from the United Arab Emirates and abroad. 

"The objective is to create a first-class research institute for the development of advanced materials," says Anthony Cheetham, chairman of the centre's international scientific advisory board and professor of materials science at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Cheetham said they were now looking to appoint a director for the centre, as well as an associate director and eight senior research leaders, who will set the research agenda.

Michael Klein, a member of the advisory board and director of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Materials at the US-based University of Pennsylvania, says, "The use of advanced materials is surely going to be crucial to sustain the long-term development of the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East as the region moves aggressively to take its place as a major crossroads for international trade."

"The intellectual challenges involved in making and characterising new materials will be at the core of the centre's activities. I look forward to watching the centre grow into a major research lab not only for the region but also for the field of advanced materials worldwide."

The plans for the centre were announced last month (29 October) by Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, crown prince and deputy ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.

The initial construction and start-up costs of the centre are funded by Stevin Rock, a ceramics company based in the region.