Hugo Sykes: Powering clean-tech revolution in the Middle East

Sykes believes Dubai will continue to keep rising in global rankings

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Sandhya D'Mello

Published: Sat 4 Dec 2021, 9:02 PM

As the UAE starts moving towards its 2050 target of net-zero carbon emissions, the clean-tech revolution is bound to reach its peak. And among those accelerating the transformation through disruptive entrepreneurship and impact investing is Hugo Sykes.

Sykes is a partner at a sustainability-focused private equity and venture capital group, AtmosClear Investments (ACI), Switzerland.

Since 2002, AtmosClear has invested in businesses and projects that address environmental challenges. Their mission is to power the clean-tech revolution through disruptive technologies and entrepreneurship.

Sykes has made the UAE his home for now as he explores opportunities in the region, with plans over the next year to expand his team, strengthen partnerships, and scale up.

“The challenges we face are not being addressed quickly enough, and we have only just begun our journey as a global community to address issues such as waste management and climate change,” he said.

Born in the UK to British parents, Sykes has lived in Switzerland since he was five. He holds a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Oxford, and a master’s in finance from the University of Harvard.

“I was fortunate to work in London and Dubai before taking on my current position as managing partner of AtmosClear Investments,” he said.

Sykes believes Dubai will continue to keep rising in global rankings.

“Dubai, and the wider UAE, is already a leading international hub for global family offices. Combining a strong legal framework, access to capital, excellent infrastructure, a digital government, ambitious entrepreneurial culture, and a deep pool of professional talent from all over the world, Dubai is well placed to keep rising,” he said.

“In addition to the formidable family offices from the UAE, international families such as our own are recognising the growth opportunities in Dubai and are looking to increase their investments in the region.”

The UAE is positioning itself as a regional leader for business, finance, and investments, he said.

The legal reforms announced in November will significantly improve the ease of doing business in the country, he added.

“Other projects, such as the Hub71, based out of ADGM, are helping accelerate the thriving tech ecosystem. Other reforms to visas and immigration have made it easy for companies to hire top international talent and offer them compelling remuneration packages in the UAE.”

By bringing his global expertise to the region, Sykes plans to bridge the gap between early-stage entrepreneurs and large institutional investors.

“We have the resources and experience to guide entrepreneurs from incorporation to their first major fundraising rounds. The early stages of a business are typically only experienced once or twice by most professionals. We specialise in dealing with all of the challenges involved in setting up a world-class venture,” he said.

Sykes’ company has two divisions: One focuses on sustainable infrastructure — such as renewable energy, digital connectivity, and real estate — and the second invests in innovative startup companies in the tech sector.

“Over the past 20 years, we have built solar energy parks, wind energy parks, fibre networks, satellite ventures, water management systems, electricity grid management solutions, low-carbon residential and commercial real estate, recycling plants, and more. Our partners have been key to our success and have supported us in ventures from the US to the Middle East, to Australia. Most importantly, over time we have created hundreds of jobs and contributed to the growth of the nations providing the infrastructure for our success,” he said.

‘There’s always something new in the UAE’

Hugo Sykes has been living in Dubai for a while now, and during his stay, he has made it a point to explore some of the UAE’s treasures.

He has already been to Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Burj Khalifa, among other top landmarks.

“I genuinely believe that these projects should be included amongst the wonders of the modern world,” he said.

“However, one of the great things about the UAE is the pace of change. It’s difficult to get bored or to have seen everything since new projects are constantly being developed. I’d welcome suggestions for my next visit,” he said.

Sykes is, in fact, planning a family reunion in Dubai in February. “We have been saving our visit to the world’s greatest show for when we are all together. We’ve heard great things about the exhibits at Expo 2020 Dubai — in particular, the pavilions of the UAE, KSA, UK, and Switzerland.”

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