Dubai ranks first as most innovative Arab city

The emirate ranked ahead of Beijing, Shanghai and Sao Paulo, scoring high in the categories of infrastructure, government and society


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 24 Nov 2021, 8:57 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Nov 2021, 8:58 PM

Dubai has been ranked as the most innovative city in the Arab world in the latest edition of the Dubai Innovation Index.

The city maintained its 20th position globally in 2020, the Dubai Chamber announced on Wednesday as it released the index at the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai.

The index report analysed a total of 39 cities, which included seven new additions.

Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber, said Dubai’s performance in the latest edition of the index reflects its ability to deliver innovation-driven development in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“By providing a supportive environment, a robust regulatory and legislative framework and highly developed infrastructure, and comprehensively addressing various vital enabling drivers, Dubai is on track to achieve its aspirations under the follow-up and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai  and Chairman of The Executive Council. By embracing new ideas to raise excellence and rapidly implementing dynamic creative solutions, Dubai is raising the performance of sectors across its economy,” he added.

Under the first pillar of the index - agile government - Dubai ranked 19th, scoring high marks for its e-Government services.

Among the specific initiatives highlighted are the Dubai Paperless Strategy, which aims to achieve a paperless government by the end of 2021. As part of the transformation, 41 government entities have already halved their paper consumption and are moving towards 100 per cent digitalisation.

Also supporting Dubai’s performance on the index is the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which has facilitated the city’s adoption of blockchain records in 24 applications in various industries.

Under the infrastructure category, Dubai was recognised for its academic institutions, including universities, boosting innovation by sharing their resources with start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The index also acknowledged Dubai’s Future District, with its research centre, incubators, accelerators and innovation space for future economy pioneers.

With regards to funding, Dubai performed well in the area of venture capital (VC), due to government-led incentives and support of global VCs looking to enter the market and those already invested in the market.

Incentivisation approaches used include: tax incentives for VC funds, public-sector matching of investments and government support for early and mid-stage start-ups through additional services.

The report highlighted positive change within Dubai’s funding landscape and a wider availability of funding channels in their ecosystems through ensuring a diversity of offerings that accompany the VC funding opportunities.

Its offerings range from government-backed guarantee schemes, such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund, to venture capital deals, angel investments, peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding.

The Dubai Next platform, launched by the Dubai government in 2021, is expected to further enhance financial access for the city’s innovators.

Under the society category, Dubai ranked 16th as the city embraces immigration, with expats drawn to its wealth of opportunities and tolerant cultural and religious environment. Further attracting expats to the emirate are its long-term visa schemes, which reward them for their contribution to the city.


The index highlights how innovation is part of Dubai’s DNA, with its leadership strongly recognising the pivotal role that it plays in the country’s sustainable development.

It also underlines the impact of the National Innovation Strategy launched in 2014 by Sheikh Mohammed, which has played a major role in prioritising innovation across all sectors and as a vital pillar of the economy.

Singapore and Hong Kong maintained their first and second places on the index respectively, with Stockholm climbing three places to replace London in third position. The UK capital dropping five places to eighth position this year.

Toronto makes the biggest jump of all the 39 cities on the index, rising seven places to reach 10th place from its 17th position in 2019.

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