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The UAE is set to become one of the key players in the robotics industry market. The Dubai government has been pushing to create a robotics hub which will be recognised both at home and abroad. The first Roboday event, which was organised on January 18 at the Dubai Silicon Oasis, was an endeavour in that direction.
The Dubai Government was represented by the authorities from Dtec and Dubai Future Labs. Representatives from established Dubai-based robotics and automation businesses were also present.
For the first time it brought together leading companies and organisations in the robotics field to discuss the latest advancements and future opportunities. Among the attendees were Robosculptor, Creative Machine Learning Technologies, Feebee, Micropolis Robotics, T.Park IT, Z-Strategi & Co, Ennovatrix, Peppermint Robotics, Jacky’s Business Solutions, Drone Centre and many others.
Runal Dahiwade, the founder at Peppermint Robotics and co-founder of Automotive Spare Parts Marketplace Carkhana.com, who joined on a video link from India, said, “Robots play a huge role in changing the way we perceive and execute services in the region. First of all, they increase availability, productivity and accountability. They also reduce costs of training, supervision and management.
For example, services like toilet cleaning are fairly tedious to manage. We are aiming to solve this problem with highly intelligent robots able to execute work efficiently, but in a very cost-effective manner. Such services are also laborious and cause physical fatigue, which doesn’t apply to robots as they don't get tired or need days off. Peppermint is excited and ready to collaborate, and start deploying these robots in the UAE".
The event also highlighted how important it is to develop a clear vision for the robotics industry and steps needed to achieve this goal.
Businesses, associations, and the government should work together to accelerate this growth further. "The market potential is very high. In Dubai Silicon Oasis, we are planning to build a full ecosystem for robotics, consisting of international companies, startups, and students. In this environment, they will be able to participate in specialised events, create new ideas, and tackle challenges.
"For this vision to come into reality, we need support from the decision-maker to enable the required labs. We can also partner with universities to provide access to their facilities. This is our first initiative to build the robotics ecosystem within Dubai," said Ghanim Alfalasi, Senior Vice President of Dubai Silicon Oasis.
The panellists highlighted common challenges in the robotics industry, which include, among others:
Dr. Slim Saidi, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Z-Strategi, consultant, strategist, futurist, AI, said: "The UAE is perfect because you can find a solution to a problem through regulation and approval from the highest authorities in a blink of an eye. It's the community that matters. But we still need to create an infrastructure that allows manufacturers in the UAE to reduce costs and acquire new skills. I think, to do that, we will need a sandbox to test innovations."
Supporting the government's vision for the development of robotics as one of the key technological sectors in the UAE. The creation of the UAE Robotics Council Association allows to consolidate industry’s efforts to effectively drive growth in the country. The Association is aiming to promote the development and use of robotics technology in the country and together with its associated members look for ways to create and build a world-class robotics hub in the UAE.
To continue conversation about the future of robotics in the UAE and attract even more companies to the field, the organisers plan to hold another Roboday in May.
Khaleej Times spoke with Denis Ledenkoff, CEO and founder of Robosculptor, who weighed in on the reasons behind his move to Dubai and how his project could boost the robotics sector.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Why did you choose the UAE to develop Robocluster?
I’d say that UAE is probably one of the really unique countries in the world that has excelled in creating an extremely welcoming and helpful environment for businesses to be set up and flourish. The country has managed to make it easy for people and businesses to communicate with the government. Here you can easily meet in person with an authority's representative, especially if you have a helpful initiative, and they will take note of it and participate in it in the future. We feel real support here.
And let’s not forget that the UAE is a bridge to the whole Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. So having the set up of the Robocluster in Dubai is a quite strategic decision for us as well. In recent years, the UAE is coming up as one of the most desired countries where young professionals of all nationalities seek to go. And having this access to talent is very important when developing robotics or any other industry, really. So yes, I see huge potential and opportunities in the region and I believe that Robocluster can become an integral part of the local industrial ecosystem.
Why do market players need Robocluster? What value will the project bring to them?
Robocluster is a unique project that can be implemented in the region, attracting different organisations and representatives interested in creating it from the very beginning. To startups and other technology companies, Robocluster will give access to infrastructure, authorities, visibility among investors, and mentorship. To investors and venture capital (VC) funds, it will provide better interaction with entrepreneurs and other market players.
In deep tech, investors and startups need to be very qualified in different fields. Sometimes they lack the expertise to solve the task of creating a complicated product. They don't know where to find the solution because the answer lies behind their managers' competence.
Having scientific mentorship can be essential for a deep tech start-up’s survival. It also helps to reduce the cost of research and development (R&D). A reliable board from the science niche in access will help minimize the burn rate and increase startups survival rate. The problem is — many small businesses cannot afford collaboration with demanded scientists. But at some point, within Robocluster their mentorship may sit just next door.
How will you develop Robocluster?
Our roadmap is quite straightforward. We’re going to do the following:
Attract key founding members and companies interested in being core residents;
Create a database of reliable prototyping and metal-cutting suppliers;
Attract more players by setting up events such as Roboday devoted to different specific topics;
Get agreement or official intent from investors and facilities to host residents;
Supervise and operate the facility and promote it worldwide
As a result, we expect Robocluster to become the world's first and most successful, convenient, and professional ecosystem for hardware robotics.
Talking about industry as a whole — how fast do you expect the local robotics market to grow?
The problem is, it’s hard to say what robotics is right now. There are different fields where robots are used. Sometimes, what is a robot is not defined as one. Other times, what is not a robot is called so. However, we can surely anticipate that the robotics market will grow steadily. It is just a matter of how fast the technologies reach the point worth investing in to commercialise them.
What do we need to consider to create a solid Industry 4.0 in the UAE?
I think that for the success of any industry, two crucial factors are required — product and market. As we have discussed during the Roboday event and the panel discussion with the experts we need to concentrate on two verticals. First, to create favourable conditions for robotics companies to start growing local manufacturing. And as we see it, one of the components of that would be to develop an industrial infrastructure that will allow fast onboarding of robotics companies and startups and provide them access to vital machinery required for hardware tech. And second, we need to consolidate current robotics market players' efforts in order to drive awareness and popularize the industry with a wide audience and as a result of such consolidated efforts to get much better user adoption of the technology.
And then we can talk about some practical steps on how we can make it happen. So we will need to attract scientific and technological experts to the UAE who will stay here for a long time. And from this angle I believe the government has already started to take serious steps in this direction. Let’s take for example a Golden visa programme that offers 10-year residence visas for exceptional talent or scientific scouting.
Then, when we talk about start-ups for example, what else would be essential for them apart from access to machinery would be funding. So we also need to launch enough accelerators that understand and specialise in hardware products. And having Robocluster as an ecosystem will facilitate interaction between both sides and will also give investors a better understanding of how to evaluate robotic start-ups.
Finally, we need to create a Board that will be available to companies working in the robotics field throughout the region to disseminate information and effectively address concerns or act on initiatives coming from the industry players.
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