UAE: A Global Hub for Innovation
The UAE is taking an innovative approach to address 21st century challenges. In fact, the UAE is the number one environment for innovation in the Arab World in 2019, according to the Global Innovation Index – the fourth straight year it has held that distinction. The country’s National Innovation Strategy, announced in 2014, encourages new thinking and groundbreaking solutions in seven priority sectors: renewable and clean energy, transportation, technology, education, health, water and space. UAE youth are playing a leading role in driving innovation. The UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Sciences Sara Al Amiri and Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar Al Olama – both in their 20s and 30s – have mandates that focus in particular on advances in science and engineering.
From aerospace to defense to high-tech, innovative UAE-US partnerships are helping drive growth and development in both countries. In October 2018, the UAE Space Agency and NASA signed an implementing arrangement to cooperate on manned space exploration. And in September 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati astronaut in space and the first Arab astronaut to reach the International Space Station (ISS). Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation and Security Solutions in Abu Dhabi facilitates public-private partnerships and provides trainings for Emirati youth. And Mubadala-owned semiconductor maker GlobalFoundries, which employs more than 4,000 people in New York State, manufactures crucial technology used in computers and mobile devices.
These collaborations reflect the UAE’s broader commitment to innovation. State-of-the-art technology accelerators like Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 and Dubai’s Area 2071 are spaces designed for entrepreneurs, investors, academics and policymakers to more easily collaborate, boost startups in the technology field, diversify the economy away from oil and enrich the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Arab region. In addition, the $540 million Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund finances projects and supports innovation-friendly reforms and infrastructure improvements. And from the launch of the Youth Circles initiative in 2016 to the establishment of ideation spaces like Youth x Hub, the UAE is providing platforms for future entrepreneurs to shape innovative solutions to global challenges.
Every UAE government department now has a Chief Innovation Officer, and system-wide education reforms prioritize STEM curriculum and Research & Development. In 2018, Abu Dhabi launched The Innovation Hub, a first-of-its-kind model for the Middle East, to increase interest and participation in science and technology in the region. The Hub offers lessons in machine learning, application development, 3D printing and laser-cutting, among other tech industry practices.