Innovating ways to secure economy

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Creativity and innovation are the buzzwords around which the future economic plans and strategies of the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) revolve around these days. President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently announced a detailed plan worth over AED300 billion to become a “knowledge-based economy” and end the
dependence on oil for sustainable growth of the country in the forthcoming years.
The declaration of 2015 as the ‘Year of Innovation’ and the celebration of first
‘Innovation Week’ in November clearly show the government is seriously making efforts to enhance the role of innovation as the main driving force of development and economic growth in future.
The UAE is investing big time in science and advanced technology, including fields such as robotics, solar power, developing intellectual property, stem cell research and
bio-technology to attain the goal.
The ‘Innovation Week’, part of the seven-year ‘National Innovation Strategy’ launched by His Highness Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, showcased as many as 900 innovative initiatives by government and private bodies in fields of education, health, transportation, commerce and human
“Planning a higher policy for the UAE in the fields of science, technology and innovation that includes scientific initiatives, legislative recommendations and clear financial investment is a strategic decision that aims to change the national economy equation to drive it away from depending on limited oil resources,” says His Highness Al Maktoum, in a recent announcement.
The Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy focuses on 100 initiatives with major investments in education, health, energy, transport, space and water. All government departments are now required to have a CEO of Innovation to oversee progress towards the National Innovation Strategy. The government appointed 50 chief innovations officers at various bodies in collaboration with UK’s Cambridge University are today leading the new phase of development agenda of the Emirates through various innovative initiatives.

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Pioneering smart projects
Take a look. Project ‘Energies’, the first of its kind in the region, aims to utilise solar energy and cars and motorcycles’ kinetic energy in generating electricity. Developed in cooperation with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), the self-financed project helps reduce the carbon footprint and contributes to creating a
sustainable environment. It is expected to yield many positive results this year.
Another project, ‘Factory of UAE Pioneers’ — a human resource system based on artificial intelligence and smart technology — aims to help young men identify their strengths, choose their career, and set their personal plans without any human intervention. It is one of the most keenly-followed project in the Emirates and is expected to yield many fruitful results in 2016 and in the further years to come.
Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University and the Ministry of Education’s online platform ‘Smart Teacher’ offers interactive solutions for pupils to enhance their chances of education and seek assistance from virtual teachers.
Aimed to create nationwide
information platform to help bring about a positive impact on the
national agenda indexes and the UAE Vision, the ‘Genetic Fingerprint’ project promises an assortment of positive results this year. It is associated with the study of integrated genetic features of the UAE residents. The project is designed to help in diagnosing and preventing many diseases.
The Ministry of Justice’s ‘Smart Litigation’ project enables the parties’ litigations to be judged through e-live trial. It aims to achieve easy accessible innovative justice, offered in a smart way that saves both time and
The government is also developing smart phone apps for public to interact with authorities electronically. One such app ‘Smart Salik Dubai’ allows drivers to pay traffic fines and charge their Salik toll tag. It is expected to undergo a refreshing overhaul, offering an array of new provisions.

<> on March 27, 2013 in Palm Springs, California.

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Moving up the index
As a result of the initiatives like mentioned above, the UAE has been ranked second within the GCC, after Saudi Arabia, on the 2015 edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII), which surveyed 141 economies around the world and used 79 indicators to gauge their innovative capabilities. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the GII.
The UAE is moving steadily to be among the top 20 countries in the world in the GII by 2021 with a sheer focus on renewable energy, transportation, technology, education, health, water and space.
Emphasising up on the Emirates’ efforts in the direction of green technology and its contribution in economy, Ivano Ianelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, says, “Dubai carbon, as a green economy facilitator, is engaged in creating an economic model that is viable, while reducing environmental risks. The private sector is a key operator and a central player in this low-carbon economic model and therefore plays an important role both in developed and developing countries.”
“Many efforts are on and we are expecting rewarding results this year,” he pointed out.
In the first phase of the innovation strategy, 30 national initiatives will be completed within three years. These include new legislation, innovation incubators, investment in specialised skills, private-sector incentives, international research partnerships, and an innovation drive within the government.
The funds announced by the President will mostly go towards research and development, and tripling the number of people working in the knowledge economy by 2021. Let’s have a quick look how the plans and policies as per the innovations strategy will ensure seamless growth for stakeholders in the coming years.

Opportune time for start-ups
The Year of Innovation has particularly helped young businesses as multiple new initiatives and funds have been announced to support creative ideas. Recently the federal government announced $544 million to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Besides, the Khalifa Fund, which aims to create a new generation of Emirati entrepreneurs, has financed more than 1,100 projects. The fund launched its ‘Ibtikari’ programme, a qualitative initiative for technical innovation projects. The ‘Khalifa Fund Gateway’, an interactive platform for entrepreneurs, so far has benefitted 514 companies in both financial and non-financial services.
With the Khalifa Fund investing US$545 million into SMEs in the last few years, many are giving up jobs in the public sector and starting up their own small
The in5 Innovation Centre further supports entrepreneurship and cultivates the development of the information and communications technology and digital media start-up ecosystem in Dubai. From idea creation to implementation and the commercial launch of the product or service, entrepreneurs get the required support.
Owing to all these efforts, undoubtedly 2016 is being seen a turning-point year for many
start-ups who have deliberately chosen Dubai or Abu Dhabi to set up their operations.
The UAE’s technology free zones have come up as excellent breeding grounds for start-ups. Twitter and Google have already established regional hubs in the UAE and helping intensify efforts to inspire technological innovation in the country.
Many of the private businesses are setting up SMEs in the Abu Dhabi Global Market financial free zone on Al Maryah Island. In 2016, the opportunity for the success of innovative ideas and projects in Abu Dhabi will be much bigger than any other place in the world.

Corporate governance takes shape
The government is encouraging companies to adopt innovation in their operations and services and to enhance the country’s stature in global competitiveness reports that rate international businesses for ease-of-doing business.
Gulf family-owned businesses, which account for US$1 trillion in assets and represent 90 percent of the country’s economies, are
open-handedly accepting innovations and best practices in their businesses. These businesses are now embracing corporate governance and giving their due attention to transparency and accountability.
The Pearl Initiative, a private sector-led, non-profit organisation, has been at the forefront of helping companies improve their business practices corporate governance.
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Award, a major tool for measuring excellence and institutional performance in the country and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, witnessed 1,200 companies competing this year, a 12.5 percent rise in participants compared to previous year, clearly reflecting the increasing stress on innovation in companies in the UAE and the

Green sectors to get major thrust
With the UAE’s foot on the innovation accelerator, funds have been channelised towards developing alternative and sustainable energy. Nearly AED128 billion has been allocated for investments in clean energy projects and another AED72 billion for renewable industry.
Thanks to its sustainable energy and waste management programmes, the UAE was for the first time ranked among top 30 countries in the Yale University and Columbia University Environmental Performance Index in 2014.
Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to see the Emirate a global centre of green economy. Dubai Green Zone will soon be formed which will attract research and
development centres and emerging
companies in clean energy. The AED100-billion Dubai Green Fund will provide easy loans for investors in the clean energy sector and it will certainly stay on the focal-point in 2016.
Masdar, the world’s first carbon-free city, has attracted investments in green projects from across the globe. Masdar CEO Dr Ahmad Al Belhoul says the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 envisages to create a truly smart economy by working in different sectors, and renewable industry is one of them. Through its private equity arm, Masdar has invested more than US$500 million and now has a portfolio of about 4.5-GW of renewable energy, equivalent to four nuclear reactors. In only seven years of its operation, Masdar has become an example for the GCC in pursuing green economy ambitions. Renewable energy is becoming more and more economically viable as the sector evolves.
Firms dealing in renewable and green energy stand to gain from these developments in the years to come. Bee’ah Group has the largest gasification waste-to-energy facility and the first building in the UAE powered by green renewable energy. Using the cleanest technology, the company is building a waste energy facility of
80-MW in Sharjah. Many similar projects are expected to come up in all across the UAE in 2016.
Bee’ah Group is running most of the programmes in residential recycling waste in Dubai. The group is also working on a project to organise waste management and recycling for the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
The innovation strategy encourages innovation in the renewables industry while supporting applied research in clean technology. Various firms are cashing in on the green initiatives and opening up to international investment. Environmental companies across the world are getting encouraged to set-up their projects in the UAE either independently or as part of a joint venture.

Education, R&D in focus
A whopping AED31 billion has been earmarked to enhance scientific research and AED12 billion to establish innovation incubators and academic research centres in the Emirates in the coming months. The government has launched the Abu Dhabi Innovation Index and Abu Dhabi Innovation Survey to help measure success in adopting and spreading knowledge.
In education, the National Innovation Strategy envisions to establish innovation labs in schools and universities as part of a drive to equip students with targeted skills such as critical thinking,
problem-solving, creativity, perseverance and adaptability.
Moving in this direction, the UAE has created the world’s first free zone for higher education and development. Dubai Knowledge Village and Dubai International Academic City have pioneered the innovative way of impartingeducation.
In February 2015, His Excellency Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, had announced the launch of seven educational initiatives in schools and universities, with the aim of promoting innovation, including robot labs and an annual national innovation exhibition.
While in April 2015, Shaikh Mohammad launched the Government Innovation Diploma, offered by the Mohammad Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation in cooperation with the UK’s Cambridge University. A total of 50 executive officials from 36 federal and local government departments are part of the first batch undertaking the diploma programme. The Gulf Ecosystem Research Centre, a joint initiative with the American University of Sharjah, is conducting research into Gulf ecosystems, particularly in the areas of air, water and land pollution and biodiversity.
To establish the UAE as the capital of content, culture and knowledge, the government has declared 2016 as ‘Reading Year.’ The Cabinet has issued directives to start preparing an integrated national literacy strategy and a framework, establishing an economy based on knowledge and changing the course of development to be based on science and innovation in the UAE.
The government has set a goal to develop a scientific, entrepreneurial and innovation culture in the nation and reading has a key role to play in this development of new generations of scientists, researchers and knowledge workers in the UAE.

Fillip to aerospace industry
The innovation strategy aims at stimulating modernisation in air and sea travel as well as logistics. The aim is to provide new products and services, make procedures more effective, and save time. For innovation projects, AED40 billion has been kept aside for aviation research.
The UAE has emerged as a leader in aerospace. Leveraging its booming airline and airport companies, the Gulf state has expanded into manufacturing and servicing airplane components, gaining partnerships with the world’s biggest aviation players. The Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park is a key catalyst to setting up a world-class aerospace hub for manufacturing and maintenance facilities.
The largest helicopter company in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi Aviation (ADA) is taking off in all areas of aviation. ADA has entered the new sectors via several joint ventures. Mubadala’s diversified aerospace companies across manufacturing and services prove there’s more to aviation than airports and airlines. Mubadala is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs by 2030. ADA also plans to further differentiate itself by opening a training centre in Abu Dhabi in the second half of 2016.
AED20 billion has been set aside for the nascent space industry. The UAE Space Agency’s Mars Mission is scheduled for launch in 2020. A planned research centre in Al Ain to be set up at cost of AED100 million over five years is intended to act as an incubator for space research and innovation. The National Innovation Strategy will also support space technology for the purpose of exploration as well as satellite communications and specialised research on terrestrial applications.
Besides, the strategy will promote advanced technologies in healthcare services. It will stimulate the growth of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries while also working with strategic partners to support medical research. On the topic of water, the strategy will seek innovative solutions to fight the challenge of water scarcity.
In all, the future seems bright as the federal government continues to explore new avenues for economic development and promote scientific temper in fields with commercial
viabilities to become a true
knowledge-based economy.

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