This policy paper describes the role of UAE universities in local networks to support research and innovation. UAE leaders have recently stated intentions to develop a knowledge economy (Emirates Competitiveness Council, 2011). With higher education widely recognized as a key driver in innovation economies (Aubert & Reiffers, 2003; Etzkowitz & Dzisah, 2008), the UAE’s universities have a central role to play in sustaining active networks among universities, industry, and government. Such networks support innovation by promoting the flow of information and ideas across institutional boundaries (Etzkowitz & Dzisah, 2008).
This qualitative study, based on interviews with 62 higher education stakeholders in the UAE, finds possible advantages to developing networks across institutions and sectors, as well as a number of barriers to their development. The policy paper first provides an overview of the role that universities play in innovation networks, followed by a presentation of the study’s findings regarding stakeholders’ perceptions of the value of local networks and the barriers faced in developing them. Lastly, policy recommendations are presented to address the challenges faced by universities in building networks among and between universities, industry, and government.