Monday, October 18, 2021

Abu Dhabi’s Technology Innovation Institute appoints its first CEO

Dr. Ray O. Johnson, a former Silicon Valley VC and one-time CTO of Lockheed Martin, will lead efforts to realize TII’s high-tech ambitions.

 TII’s electromagnetic compatibility labs in Abu Dhabi. (ANNA NIELSEN / WIRED )

TO FULFILL ITS ambitions in pioneering technologies like quantum computing, autonomous devices, and the internet of things, Abu Dhabi’s Technology Innovation Institute (TII) needs to straddle the worlds of technology research and industry.

That reasoning is one of the driving forces behind a decision by the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) to appoint TII’s first chief executive, Dr. Ray Johnson. Johnson has a background as an operating partner at one of Silicon Valley’s oldest VC firms, Bessemer Venture Partners, and as chief technology officer at the US defense giant Lockheed Martin—all of which should help TII’s efforts to position Abu Dhabi as a global technology hub.

Faisal Al-Bannai, the secretary general of Abu Dhabi’s ATRC, called Johnson’s appointment “much anticipated” within the organization. “We were keen that the person entrusted with this role should not merely be an excellent research and technology specialist, but equally, a consummate professional and industry stakeholder that is capable of ensuring the most positive outcomes for the breakthrough projects TII is currently engaged in across its seven initial dedicated research centers,” says Al-Bannai.

Dr. Ray O. Johnson will serve as the Technology Innovation Institute’s first CEO. (TII )

Many of those breakthrough projects are already underway. Abu Dhabi has already begun building its own quantum computer, recruiting dozens of employees to join the likes of Google and IBM in the quest to advance the technology. The emirate says that it aims to develop a “stack” of quantum tech, involving the computers themselves, the algorithms on which they run, and the “middleware” software that lies in between. The institute’s eventual goal is to apply the technology to fields ranging from medicine to designing better batteries.

As the UAE continues efforts to debut self-driving cars and other smart city innovations, TII also runs electromagnetic compatibility labs testing whether our gadgets will get along in an increasingly connected world.

As TII’s first chief executive, Johnson will be responsible for helping the institute grow its team of more than 375 researchers, scientists, and engineers. He will also be responsible for leveraging his network to “further expand our visibility and reach across markets,” says Al-Bannai.

“Since TII’s inception in November 2020, I have followed its many announcements and achievements with great interest,” says Johnson. “As it moves into a new phase of growth, I look forward to working with the talented teams of researchers across its centers to drive competitive results and facilitate breakthrough solutions that transition to the market.”

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