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The UAE’s economic vision: Knowledge is power

Knowledge is power

Dubai’s economy is diversifying rapidly and, with a focus on advanced technology and innovation, is poised for strong growth in the coming years as the emirate looks to meet – if not exceed – the goals set out in the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030.

In recent years, the UAE’s wise leadership has prioritised economic diversification, especially towards a knowledge- and innovation-based economy, by focusing on digitalisation and technology.

This recognition of the need for business diversity is reflected in the various visions and strategies focused on developing both Dubai and Abu Dhabi economies. One of these is the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, launched in June 2016 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the aim of transforming Dubai into a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable, and innovation-focused businesses.

This is part of the UAE’s broader aim to create a diverse and agile economy underpinned by innovation and make the MENA/GCC region a key economic hub.

The launch of the strategy has galvanised Dubai’s efforts to diversify its economy and focus more on new and emerging technologies, especially in the manufacturing supply chain. The public and private sectors have been fostering businesses and encouraging global corporations and startups to base their business in one of Dubai’s economic zones to realise the aims of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030.

The role of emerging technology

Emerging technologies are already playing a pivotal role in Dubai’s economy. One of the key areas is 3D printing – indeed, there is a Dubai 3D Printing Strategy in operation, launched around the same time as the Industrial Strategy. It aims to ensure that 25% of buildings in Dubai are based on 3D printing technology by 2030.

To this end, in 2021, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed issued Decree no. 24, regulating the use of 3D printing in the construction sector in Dubai, in a bid to encourage more construction companies to come to Dubai. Several businesses have already put down roots in the emirate because of its commitment to 3D printing.

Under the Decree’s framework, the emirate promotes the use of additive manufacturing in partnership with government and non-government bodies to encourage 3D printing adoption in the construction sector.

The metaverse – a virtual world where people can interact, shop and work – is another developing technology in which Dubai seeks to be a global leader. This emerging industry is predicted to reach a global value of up to US$5 trillion by 2030, and Dubai wants to be in the top 10 metaverse adopters.

To this end, the government has established the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to attract more than 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies by 2030, creating an estimated 40,000 virtual jobs. The strategy seeks to foster innovation through research and development collaboration, using accelerators and incubators to attract businesses working in the Metaverse. It also aims to provide education for developers, content creators and those who use digital platforms to enable them to drive innovation. In addition, Web3 technology will be used to create new work models in sectors including tourism, healthcare, and retail.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another emerging technology in which Dubai is in the vanguard of adoption and monetisation. For example, Digital Dubai has created a first-of-its-kind AI Lab to make Dubai the smartest city in the world. The Lab is integrating AI into government services and city experiences to improve the quality of life of Dubai residents and ensure visitors have a fulfilling experience.

There are now more than 130 active AI initiatives in Dubai, along with a wealth of businesses harnessing the potential of AI for applications in a wide range of sectors, from healthcare to media.

Vision backed up by substance

A strategy must combine vision with substance if it is to fulfil its aims. Dubai has been attending to infrastructure and other practical requirements to encourage businesses to base themselves in Dubai. Indeed, the emirate’s infrastructure – be it transport, telecommunications, or broadband – is now among the best in the world, and many businesses operate specifically to nurture startups and provide them with the support to grow and reach their potential. It also helps that Dubai has a high standard of living and a favourable tax regime, which makes recruiting top talent easier.

The available support includes access to tech support, research facilities and investment opportunities. Many businesses, especially in the tech sector, need additional capital to develop products or services, and there is no shortage of traditional and modern avenues for companies to find the finance they need in Dubai.

Coming to Dubai

The vision of the myriad 2030 strategies, along with the hard work put in, is paying off as companies of all sizes consistently set up operations in Dubai today. For instance, fast-growing payment technology software provider Praxis Tech opened an office in Dubai in February to cater to its expanding global client base. The move was inspired by the company’s desire to expand its presence in the Middle East, provide 24-hour support for its clients, and gain access to an exceptional talent pool, according to Praxis Tech’s co-founder Amit Klatchko.

PISIQ, a research and development group that focuses on fostering talent and startups in sectors such as artificial intelligence, IT, and product research, is another success story. It has received over US$30 million in three funding rounds since it was founded in 2016 in Dubai, growing quickly by taking advantage of the region’s favourable business conditions and abundance of people and organisations willing to invest in startups.

Exciting times ahead

As the above examples show, these are interesting times for high-tech industries in Dubai. With technologies such as AI, the Metaverse, and 3D printing all developing at pace, how we live and work could change significantly in the next few years. The developments embodied in the 2030 strategies are great news for Dubai and its economy, and local businesses look set to capitalise and ensure the emirate is a global leader in many priority sectors.

Success tends to breed success. As more businesses come to Dubai to take advantage of the infrastructure, favourable business climate, and wealth of expertise on offer, it is likely that the vision laid out in the Industrial Strategy and the various other 2030 schemes will be met and then exceeded.