December 2016


The Smart Dubai Office has partnered with the University of Surrey, a highly ranked university in the United Kingdom, to provide PhD students the opportunity to research on one of the world’s fastest growing topics – Smart Cities. Students who take up the offer will be provided with actual data from the Smart Dubai Office and its strategic partners and will then be presented with real projects and challenges to be addressed, all a part of the path to making Dubai the happiest city on Earth.

The opportunity includes participation in one of two projects – Urban Design and Digital Storytelling. Given the complexity of designing smart cities of the future, Urban Design revolves around reconsidering conventional approaches to user-centered design. Participatory design frameworks are more applicable now, where communities are brought together with planners, architects and developers to discuss requirements and plans before work takes place. The Urban Design project aims to explore such a process by using participatory narratives. Communities will be encouraged to make narratives of the past, present and future of an urban area, for consideration and response by planners and designers in the design process.

The Digital Storytelling project revolves around tourist experiences. The way in which tourists capture and share records of their trips has changed in recent years due to the ubiquity of digital photography and social media. More photography and videography material is recorded now than ever before, but this is getting lost in a sea of hidden digital material that is difficult to share and enjoy. The Digital Storytelling project will explore solutions to this problem through the more selective capture of more immersive experience records and their assembly into physical and digital narratives based on a scrapbook metaphor. A combination of design ethnography, prototyping and field trials will be used in the investigation.

Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, said: “The two PhD programs available are an unparalleled opportunity for students to enhance their skills in Smart City management and implementation. These students will be leaders of tomorrow and their thought leadership will be crucial to the continuing success of the Smart Dubai Office and the growth of Dubai.”

While the academic supervision of the program will be directly under the University of Surrey, qualified Smart Dubai Office representatives will act as ‘industrial’ supervisors to guide the students towards the right context in line with the Smart Dubai initiative.

Candidates will need to obtain their own source of funding for the educational and living expenses, however Emiratis can apply for financial support from the regular government channels who sponsor international graduate programs. The Smart Dubai office will provide financial support towards major conference attendances and for certain project software and hardware requirements.

“As greater happiness is the ultimate goal of the Smart Dubai Office, we are committed to working with the PhD students to encourage looking at all their projects with a view to increasing the city’s happiness overall. It will be very interesting and insightful to observe the learnings and feedback of all the students, who now share a common goal with Smart Dubai.” said Dr. Ali al-Azzawi, City Experience Advisor, Smart Dubai Office.

For a detailed brief on each program, please click on the below links:
Urban Design
Digital Storytelling

Interested applicants can contact Dr. Ali al-Azzawi on