Sharjah Innovation Park strengthens position as regional hub for start-ups
SAIA 2.0 comes at an opportune time when the world is reeling from the pandemic and innovative companies searching for stable places to grow
More than 750 individual and company start-ups from around the world have joined the Sharjah Advanced Industry Accelerator 2.0 (SAIA), which aims to transform the UAE, and Sharjah in particular, as a strong hub of advanced technologies in research, AI, additive manufacturing, robotics, petrochemicals, agro-industries, healthcare, biotechnology, as well as clean and renewable energy.
Organised by the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), the second edition of the accelerator programme is line with Industry 4.0 and the UAE’s industrial strategy ‘Operation 300bn’, a 10-year comprehensive policy aimed at empowering and expanding the industrial sector to become the driving force of a sustainable national economy. The policy aims to achieve this by increasing its contribution to the GDP from the current Dh133 billion to Dh300 billion in 2031.
SAIA 2.0 was launched in May with a total prize pool worth $450,000. Eight start-ups will be selected to participate in the virtual accelerator and will benefit from local incubation support and venture scaling beyond the accelerator program. The most innovative winner start-up will win the grand prize worth $100,000. Start-ups operating in Advanced Industries, Manufacturing Tech, Smart Cities, Sustainable Design, Construction Tech, Smart Materials, Drone and Robotics, as well as Artificial Intelligence applied to the SAIA programme.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI Park, exlained that SAIA 2.0 was launched as a platform for start-ups to introduce their products and innovations to global markets while they forge on establishing local and regional partnerships. He added that SAIA 2.0 reflects the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to boost the innovative sector in Sharjah by attracting creators from all over the world.
“SAIA is also in line with UAE’s Unified Industrial Brand Identity, ‘Make It in the Emirates’, an integrated industrial system that leverages advanced technologies and Fourth Industrial Revolution solutions to contribute to building a sustainable, knowledge-based economy,” he said.
The UAE is ranked first in the Arab world and 31st globally among the ‘most friendly countries’ for start-ups, according to the annual global assessment of countries' competitiveness. According to a report by Magnet, the UAE accounts for the largest share of venture capital investment in the region. Bold investment in the Mena region recorded $3.47 billion during the first half of 2021 and the UAE has accounted for the largest share of deals, with a share of 26 per cent of total valued at $755 million, primarily due to the availability of more mature investment environments.
SRTI Park is one of the main players in attracting this type of investment in the country, which encourages investors in this sector to go to this emerging technology incubator. The park is already home to more than 160 emerging companies specialising in advanced innovative technologies, working various sectors. They have chosen the techno hub as the base of their operations, and a substantial number of them have concluded investment deals with a number of local companies under the umbrella of the Sharjah Angel Investors Network (SAIN).
“The SRTI Park ecosystem is thriving with lots of success stories that work in a distinctive creative environment. We are aspiring to further promote innovation by providing start-ups with a wide spectrum of support, founded on innovation,” Al Mahmoudi said.
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