The first Audi Innovation Award of the region has set out to propel significant positive change, and they picked the right judges to do it.

Innovation is hard to define. One can't simply open a dictionary, and follow the index to the right word. To innovate can mean drastically different things across sectors, but one thing is certain: it is not anchored in design, or tech, or engineering, rather, it is the process of propelling change. 

This is precisely what the Audi Innovation Award has set out to do. It is a competition rooted in design research with a strong emphasis on innovative ideas; a call to action for the region’s designers, engineers and changemakers. The purpose of the prize is to invigorate design and technology thinking in the GCC and Levant, so as to facilitate significant positive change. Its goal is to provide a platform for the region for the development and exchange of ideas; to simultaneously support, mentor, and ultimately make room for the visionaries of tomorrow. 

Launched in 2016 during Dubai Design Week, the competition is now its first round. The theme is alternative, as it is directly related to Audi’s “electrification” strategy. The award invites contestants to provide solutions in five key areas of focus: lifestyle, healthcare, mobility, education, and urban public spaces. With the deadline for entry submission now passed, it's up to the panel of judges to determine which proposals take home the prize: a trip to the Audi factory in Inglostadt in Germany and $25,000 to go towards the development and protection of the idea. The two runners-up will receive $2,500 in cash and a chance to present their concept at Design Days Dubai in 2017.

The regional panel of judges, comprised of the leading figures in innovation today, reflects the competition’s purpose and are:

Aisha Alsager

Managing Director of AGi architects. Aisha has a range of expertise in web design, digital fabrication, material research, interiors and urban design. In 2014, her research piece “Water as Monument,” was featured in Acquiring Modernity, the official publication of the Kuwait Pavilion at the14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia. She brings a nuanced and multidisciplinary view to the panel. 

Amer Aldour

Trained in Architecture and Engineering. He worked in both fields before developing further interest in exploring the interface between technological innovations and architectural space. Amer recently started inter.act, his own interactive design studio in Dubai, and he's also a previous exhibitor at Design Days Dubai.

Brendan McGetrick

An American author, designer, and curator, and the director of DXBDW's Global Grad Show. His work has appeared in publications in over twenty countries including Wired, Art Review, Domus, and Vogue Nippon.  

Dr. Noah Raford

Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Futures Foundation, and an advisor on futures, foresight, and innovation at the UAE Prime Minister's Office, Noah helped establish the country's first national foresight unit, the Dubai Future's Foundation and the Museum of the Future. Suffice to say, he’s always looking forward, with a knack for public-facing projects.

Enrico Atanasio

Brand Director of Audi Middle East, and a veteran of the automotive industry with a successful career of over 30 years in the business. Enrico previously headed the Fiat Group in India and has extensive international understanding and knowledge. As Brand Director for the brand with the four rings, he heads the Audi business in the region for 11 Middle East countries.

Mitra Khoubrou

Co-founder of Dubai-based Pink Tank, Mitra has been involved in economic and cultural issues throughout the Middle East. She thinks in terms of strategy, goal, and focus, having worked on many strategic and advisory projects. She approaches the panel with an action-oriented lens and an eye for planning.  

Mohammad Saeed Al-Shehhi

Mohammad is the Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Design District, the new hub for creativity and design in the UAE–and arguably in the region at large. Prior to d3, he was CEO of DMI, and worked with a number of innovative projects in the region. He is at the epicentre of the burgeoning design community in the UAE, and brings a wealth of knowledge about the sector to the table.

Riyad Joucka 

An Architect and Researcher, currently based in New York City, where he works for the award-winning firm, SHoP Architects. Riyad has been involved in workshops and projects from Paris to Tehran to Shanghai. His exposure, mixed with an academic background, provides the panel with a fresh approach to the theoretical and the practical, and the ways in which they can come together.

Salem Al Qassemi 

A graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Fikra founder. Salem is a designer, entrepreneur, and an Assistant Professor of Design at the American University of Sharjah. He brings a young, ear-to-the-ground perspective, and a fresh approach to design and innovation.