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University students in the UAE are being given an opportunity to help shape the future through an Expo 2020 Dubai program that entrusts youth to develop creative solutions to global challenges that affect the region.

The second cycle of the University Innovation Program (UIP), a key pillar of Expo 2020's innovation and partnership program Expo Live, was launched today. It calls on student teams to produce original ideas or prototypes that could benefit communities by positively impacting society, preserving the environment, or both.

Successful student teams will each receive a grant worth between AED 25,000 and AED 50,000 to help take their idea to the next level. Students will also receive guidance from their universities and Expo Live to advance research and development, create a business model, grow their team and potentially partner with other entities.

Grantees may even have the chance to showcase their projects to millions of people at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Yousuf Caires, Vice President - Expo Live, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: "Expo Live firmly believes that innovation can come from anywhere, to everyone - and this especially includes university students. We saw this during the first cycle of the UIP, when student teams across the UAE developed truly innovative projects that we are now helping to develop.

"We should never underestimate the power of collaboration, which is why we are asking students to team up, and work with the support of their universities. We have already seen how enthusiastically our students can work together to create a positive impact and we hope to recreate the same sense of eagerness to tackle our most pressing challenges during the second cycle."

The first cycle of the University Innovation Program, which launched in September 2017, received more than 280 applications from student teams across the UAE. Nineteen teams were awarded grants to help bring their solutions to life, with support from their universities, the Expo Live team and Expo 2020 Dubai and its partners.

Smart Submarine Group, from United Arab Emirates University, designed a submarine that collects data on marine ecosystems, such as pH levels, salinity and turbidity. The customizable unmanned vessel could help public and private organizations to better monitor coral reefs, inspect undersea oil pipelines and select sustainable locations for new ports.

Spokesperson Sara Alameri from Smart Submarine Group said: "The marine life along the UAE's coast has been undergoing intensive change for the past few decades. Seaborne oil transport, trade and coastal urban development have had a major impact on its ecological health. The grant, combined with support from our university and Expo Live, has enabled us to improve the submarine so we can gain even more information about the health of marine life.

"Participating in Expo Live's University Innovation Program has been so fulfilling. It has given us the chance to feel like we're making a real difference, by coming up with a tangible solution to a problem that I don't think we could have tackled individually. We are the innovators of tomorrow and this program has given us invaluable experience and an understanding of how things work in the real world."

Additionally, Heelo, a team from Emirates Aviation University, received funding for its Project You mentoring program, which seeks to boost confidence and reduce anxiety among school students. NYU Abu Dhabi team Poolers created the Wheels mobile app, helping to reduce traffic congestion by encouraging and facilitating users to car share. 

As well as providing funding, guidance and exposure, the annual program builds partnerships between students, government entities, business incubators, accelerators and mentors, helping to maximize participants' chances of success beyond Expo 2020 Dubai.

Teams in the second cycle have until 15 October, 2018 to submit applications. Proposed projects should be in keeping with Expo 2020 Dubai's subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a design-thinking workshop, where they will pitch their projects to a panel of judges and receive feedback to help them prepare for the final at the end of November.

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