Abstract: Universities are central to building the innovative capacity of societies, the economy or industries alike because they provide access to basic science, the experience and knowledge of their researchers and learning opportunities to understand and adapt knowledge. Hence, exploring the structure and capabilities of the higher education institutions allows the appreciation of their contributions in the transfer of knowledge or technology from the research community to those sectors of the economy which apply that knowledge for enhanced productivity or commercial innovations. It also allows the understanding of the human efforts and resources engaged in learning, adapting or creating new knowledge for local needs and how these concepts are linked to the production, transmission and transfer of knowledge within local higher education institutions. The present paper seeks to explore the role leading universities play in the national innovation system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and how they support the transfer of knowledge that nurtures the overall catching-up - development - process. It provides a typology of academic research outputs and university-industry relationships that exist within the UAE and seeks to understand their contribution to the development of local industry capabilities in strategic technology fields. Comparison is made when possible between local issues (difficulties) and those seen in developed or developing countries.