On Monday 16th April 2012, the ATCUAE welcomed a delegation from the N. Irish Government to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. While on a trade visit to the Middle East, the First and Deputy First Ministers met with the ATCUAE to support their growing relationship with the University of Ulster, and learn how the two organisations are bringing a new academic approach to sport in the UAE.
The two organisations have joined forces on a number of key projects over the last year, including the successful UAE Motorsport Star programme, ongoing research into the importance of proper hydration among motorsport officials, and the offering of postgraduate research degrees in motorsport through the University. Not all research is motorsport related, such as a study by university experts into the ever increasing rates of diabetes among the Emirati population, an issue that effects society as a whole.
Speaking after the discussions First Minister, Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA said:
“The Jordanstown campus of the University of Ulster is one of the leading sports centres in the UK and its role in developing driver talent and in quality controlling the conditions under which motorsport is conducted internationally reinforces our position on the global map. The opportunity for the co-delivery of an undergraduate course in sports management will further enhance Northern Ireland’s relationships in the Gulf region and fits in with the Executive’s strategy to increase internationalisation.
“As ambassadors for Northern Ireland skills and research we are able to take considerable pride in the University of Ulster’s special relationship with the ATCUAE and its potential for future growth.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem (President of the ATCUAE) added
“We are delighted to have this strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the University of Ulster, and believe it will continue to grow in years to come. This relationship, which is unique in world motorsport, provides great opportunities for the university in terms of research and education, while also bringing a new, academic approach to our sport that increases both safety and sustainability, both of which are cornerstones of the Motorsport Knowledge Institute, the ATCUAE’s new training and education division.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA praised the role played by the University of Ulster Sports Academy:
“The fact that young drivers who emerge with success from the UAE Motorsport Star Programme come to the Jordanstown campus to be groomed for elite motor sport speaks volumes about our expertise. The intensive training provided concentrates not just on racing skill, but also upon the importance of discipline, professional focus and psychological awareness. Nothing is left to chance. The star performers in Emirati motorsport are being nurtured and created at Jordanstown.”
Meanwhile, the signing in late 2010 of a research and training agreement between the ATCUAE and the University of Ulster is on track to produce results, as Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster MLA pointed out:
“Once again our Universities are demonstrating their world class reputation in the areas of research and development and quality of teaching. Further Investigation into the problem of dehydration at major sporting events will be conducted when the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix takes place in November, before being completed shortly after at the Dubai International Rally, and the results are eagerly awaited. A loss of only 2% bodyweight can reduce task performance by 10 – 20% and the findings produced by this research will contribute towards the formulation of best practice for race marshals working in high temperature environments across the motorsport world.”
Professor Richard Barnett, Vice Chancellor, Ulster of Ulster who joined the Ministers for their discussions said:
“This exciting partnership has been brought about by the personal drive and ambition of Mohammad Ben Sulayem to see motorsport here operate at the highest international level. And I am delighted that the University of Ulster is working with him to achieve this ambition. The Ministers’ visit to the UAE to support the University of Ulster and Northern Ireland education and business interests in the region has helped us move along the negotiations for the delivery of the first ever jointly taught sports management undergraduate course, to be provided in association with the Higher Colleges of Technology of the UAE, and I am confident we will be in a position to make an announcement in the near future.”
Through kindly hosting the event at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, the facilities owners and operators, also cemented their own relationship with the university. Chief Executive Richard Cregan, who has been appointed as a visiting Professor of Engineering at the University of Ulster, added
"we are delighted to be able to welcome this delegation to our facility, and look forward to working on further projects with the niversity over the next year."