The United Arab Emirates this month launched a two million AED ($545,000) seed fund to bankroll researchers and projects pursuing the future of human space habitation.
"We are looking to attract the best from every discipline," said Noah Raford, chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief at the Dubai Future Foundation, which will oversee the challenge.
"It's not just engineering solutions. We're looking for social scientists, designers and artists to tackle not just the infrastructural issues around space settlement, but also the business models that are going to help us get off planet."
Ideas around agriculture, economics and governance in space are also welcome, Raford added.
While the UAE's space agency wasn't officially founded until 2014, that late start hasn't hindered the country's ambitions.
It is currently preparing its first unmanned mission to Mars. Due to launch in 2020, the mission will put the UAE among a select few parties -- including the US, Russia, India and the European Space Agency -- to have sent a probe into orbit around the Red Planet.
The UAE has also said it wants to create a colony on Mars by 2117. In September last year, it unveiled renderings for its Mars Science City project, a $136 million simulation center designed to replicate a Martian base in the desert outside Dubai.
Like many oil-rich nations in the Middle East, the UAE is focusing minds on the new skills and industries that will equip its young population for a future beyond hydrocarbons.
The country's rulers see the space sector as a creator of high-paying jobs and knowledge industries -- and with good reason.
According to Jorg Matthias Determann, author of "Space Science and the Arab World," the Emirati Mars mission and the nation's other space ambitions go beyond anything any "other Arab country is currently aspiring to," in terms of scale and technological ambition.
Raford said ideas submitted to the settlement challenge could eventually be used in the Mars Science City project and the UAE's wider space program.
The program is open to anyone "regardless of discipline, background or origin," although each submitting team must contain at least one person with a PhD or equivalent qualification, Raford said.
Applications can be made until April 10.