Abu Dhabi, Dubai innovate to boost UAE’s startup ecosystem

Youssouf Kamal, industry 4.0 programme manager, Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.
Youssouf Kamal, industry 4.0 programme manager, Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.

Dubai - Plug and Play Abu Dhabi works with their network of 500 plus startup scouts, scattered across more than 40 plus offices around the world.


Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Fri 24 Sep 2021, 10:44 PM

Last updated: Fri 24 Sep 2021, 10:46 PM

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are driving growth of UAE’s startup ecosystem and positioning it as a leader in the META region to rival the best performing ecosystems in the world, says Youssouf Kamal, industry 4.0 programme manager, Plug and Play Abu Dhabi.

“At Plug and Play, we are noticing a growing interest of international investors for startups from the UAE. We have invested ourselves in many, and are looking to grow our investments in UAE startups in the coming years. In Abu Dhabi, we have seen in the past few years the emergence of a multitude of initiatives aiming to strengthen the ecosystem, tackling upfront the bottlenecks that were undermining the emergence of a strong startup hub in the region,” said Kamal.

Initiatives led by entities such as Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio), the Department of Economic Development, ADQ, Mubadala, ADGM, Khalifa Fund and others, have been able to multiply the growth of the ecosystem at a speed rarely seen elsewhere. Issues related to infrastructure, regulation, access to funding, access to market, and talent are being addressed, yielding great results, but the best is yet to come.

Similarly, Dubai has been home to some great initiatives. The latest being the Expo 2020 legacy programme, Scale2Dubai, which holds great promise for the emergence of a thriving startup hub in District 2020. Plug and Play’s first-of-its-kind Industry 4.0 open innovation platform in Abu Dhabi and its partnership with Adio, is manifestation of a mission to support Abu Dhabi in achieving its strategic objectives through innovation.

Through open innovation platform, Plug and Play aims to promote local, regional, and global collaboration across government entities, corporations, exceptional tech startups and beyond, in order to drive ambitious projects, real economic value, informed policies, and global thought leadership. To achieve these objectives their model relies on three key mechanisms, being an accelerator programme, a knowledge exchange and collaboration platform, and a bespoke set of corporate innovation services.

“For this model to be successful, it needs to operate at scale, with the right ecosystem stakeholders, by identifying and pursuing win-win opportunities between the startups and the lo Plug and Play Abu Dhabi cal stakeholders. This is the reason why we have partnered with some of the most innovative and forward-looking entities in Abu Dhabi, in sectors such as supply chain, logistics, manufacturing, energy, agtech, and mobility. We have selected these partners based on a thorough understanding of their vision, strategy, governance structure, processes, human capital, technological maturity and size, to ensure they are a good fit for this open innovation platform,” adds Kamal.

The innovation program will be tackling innovation areas such as warehouse and factory automation, demand planning, predictive analytics, predictive maintenance, energy efficiency, autonomous transport, electrification of transport, safety technologies, new materials and packaging, and many more, in order to help our partners become more competitive & leverage technologies that offer automation, connectivity and intelligence.

“Plug and Play Abu Dhabi’s partnership with Adio has been essential in the launch of this initiative, which aligns perfectly with Adio’s goal to attract the most innovative companies to Abu Dhabi. This open innovation platform aims to act as an extension of their innovation programme, which consists of a set of bespoke financial and non-financial incentives aiming to support the establishment of innovative companies in the emirate. And at Plug and Play Abu Dhabi we are proud and humbled by the trust that the Adio has put in us,” said Kamal.

Plug and Play Abu Dhabi receives thousands of requests from startups willing to participate in their open innovation platforms in Abu Dhabi, including the newly launched Industry 4.0 programme.

“While these inbound applications are a great source of exceptional candidates that we review, evaluate, and save in our CRM, Plug and Play’s model does not rely on open call for applications,” adds Kamal.

“Critical to the success of our innovation platforms, is the fit between the local tech challenges and the solutions that the startups provide. This is the reason why, before looking for the startups, we need to work closely with our partners and their business units to understand their challenges, the budgets they are ready to allocate to solve them, the growth stage of the startups they are ready to work with, the type of partnership they would like to pursue, and many other criterions, to make sure that the startups we source, perfectly fit their needs.”

Plug and Play Abu Dhabi works with their network of 500 plus startup scouts, scattered across more than 40 plus offices around the world, to find the best fit startups for the programme. — sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

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