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Dubai lures innovators, startups with new programme

Waheed Abbas/Dubai
Filed on February 15, 2020
The 'Innovation Attraction Programme' was launched by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chief Executive of Emirates Group.

Dubai aims to attract thousands of startups and innovators, especially in key strategic sectors, from across the globe to make emirate as a global hub for disruptive technologies and make the economy future ready.

Launched by government-backed Dubai SME, the 'Innovation Attraction Programme' or IAP, will reach out to over 25,000 startups worldwide that are looking at Dubai as a new market for their innovative solutions and facilitate their entry to Dubai.

The initiative will work as a two-way traffic, attract foreign startups to access funds for growth while the local startups will get international exposure.

The programme will focus on disruptive solutions in six key sectors - aerospace, transport and mobility, energy efficiency, medical and health, education, and information technology, which will become as a major enabler of innovation, industrialisation and sustainable development.

Launched by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Emirates airline and Chief Executive of Emirates Group, the programme has been developed as a partnership of SME enablers and facilitators from 15 countries, including Germany, Singapore, and Japan.

Sami Al Qamzi, director-general of Dubai Economy, said the 'Innovation Attraction Programme' will contribute significantly towards achieving the goals of the Dubai SME 2021 Plan to boost entrepreneurial activity, enhance SME competitiveness through innovation, and achieve stronger SME integration with high-growth economic opportunities.

"Dubai already has a unique advantage as an entrepreneurial hub and our startups when empowered with the right resources can usher in innovative solutions and help accelerate our transition to a future-ready economy," he added.

"Our experience has convinced us that there is a clear need for innovation-focused collaborative linkages in our startup ecosystem. The 'Innovation Attraction Programme' links local SMEs to a global ecosystem and addresses the challenges of establishing and growing in a new market," said Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME.

"It is a two-way street - it lays down the path for our SMEs to go global while also guiding the most outstanding innovators worldwide to new markets through Dubai," he added.

Al Janahi said the disruptive SMEs identified under IAP will be offered a suite of services to support their soft landing in Dubai, market access for international growth, and funding for growth.

A number of entities in UAE such as Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Future District and Hub71 in Abu Dhabi among others have taken a host of initiatives to support the local startups in various fields. Dubai International Financial Centre's Fintech Hive programme supports financial technology firms through different means of initiatives.

A recent report by Wamda found that the UAE remains the regional hub for entrepreneurship with 35.5 per cent of the startups surveyed based in the country, followed by Egypt with 26.5 per cent in sectors ranging from e-commerce, fintech, healthcare and marketplaces among others. Only 32 per cent of startups are currently registered of which 60 per cent are registered in either Egypt or the UAE.

Dubai can offer more

Jitendra Gianchandani, chairman of Jitendra Consulting Group, said Dubai is an ideal place for startups with more than 30 free zones operating in the Emirate.

He suggested that the region's commercial capital should launch a free zone dedicated to attracting youth, same as Ajman has introduced with a pioneering package and a freelancer package for Dh5,000 only.

"Apart from that, start-ups should get bank facilities at low-interest rates. At the moment, start-ups have to rely on their own funds. Banks are treating them on par with other established companies. Start-ups should get preferential rates and with less paperwork as they can't provide mortgages. Start-ups should also get relief in license fee and visa costs. It takes five years for any business to flourish and establish. The government should give start-ups at least five-year of relief package until they become mature and self-sufficient," Gianchandani said.

- waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com


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