Dubai aiming to be global innovation hub

Friday 31/07/2015
A computer generated image of the exterior of the Museum Of The Future that will be built by 2017 in Dubai at an estimated cost of $136 million.

Dubai - Will Dubai be able to replicate Califor­nia’s Silicon Val­ley and provide a launch pad for an­other Uber, Apple or Microsoft? This is the vision that is driving policymakers in the emirate.
It’s been a decade-and-a-half since Dubai started building the first of its many specialised free zones with Dubai Internet City in 2000 and Dubai Media City in 2001. The zones have attracted thou­sands of companies, including mul­tinational giants in technology and media as well as a host of start-ups and freelance professionals. An im­portant feature these zones share is a cluster environment where busi­nesses share a work campus dedi­cated to their industry, allowing for effective interaction and collabora­tion.
In the mid-1990s, Dubai incorpo­rated in its strategic plan the theo­ries of Harvard Professor Michael E. Porter, a leading advocate of clus­ters as a path for high growth, new business formation and employ­ment. Dubai’s ten world-class Clus­ter Zones serve a consumer market of 2 billion people across the Mid­dle East, North and East Africa and South Asia.
In a bid to making the emirate a global innovation hub, Dubai in June set up the Dubai Creative Clus­ters Authority (DCCA), replacing the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority, under which the zones function.
“Our clusters have successfully laid the foundation for a knowl­edge-based economy,” said Ali Bu­Ruhaima, deputy director general of DCCA.
“Over the past ten years, we have seen a 150% growth in the number of businesses in the Dubai Creative Clusters, from 1,700 businesses in 2004 to 4,242 in 2014, providing employment to 64,027 workers. More than 300 of the businesses are by sole proprietors or freelancers,” BuRuhaima said.
“In the future, we envisage that the Dubai Creative Clusters will be the first choice of creative, innova­tive individuals and businesses. We want to assist them in achieving their full creative potential so that, when the world comes to Dubai for Expo 2020, we want everyone to see Dubai as the most innovative city on the globe,” he added.
DCCA’s mandate is to foster the growth of creative industries to support the Dubai Innovation Strat­egy. “It is well established that crea­tive industries are critical drivers for innovation. In addition to cata­lysing innovation in other indus­tries, creative industries also gen­erate high-value and highly skilled employment and enhance the gen­eral quality of life and well-being in cities,” BuRuhaima said.
“We are committed to forging Dubai’s global reputation as a lead­er in creativity and a hub for inno­vation.”
One of DCCA’s priorities is to de­sign policies and programmes to support the development of a flex­ible pool of creative talent.
Changes envisaged in job regula­tions, visa policies and permits “will play a significant role in attracting the best creative talents from across the globe”, BuRuhaima noted.
Key areas for the DCCA will be to develop business-friendly regula­tions and ease the process of do­ing business, increase the size and skills of the creative talent pool and foster entrepreneurship, small and medium-sized enterprises and in­novation, among others.
Many initiatives have been set in motion. Tecom Investments, the master developer and operator of the clusters, announced an invest­ment of $1.22 billion in the Dubai Design District (d3) creative com­munity and the Innovation Hub in Dubai Internet City over the next decade. “The Innovation Hub in Dubai Internet City will focus on technology, new media, smart edu­cation and sciences. The first phase will be delivered in the first quarter of 2017,” said BuRuhaima.
The d3 creative community will be an incubator for local designers and artists and will also have art gal­leries and studios, the first phase of which will be delivered in 2016.
Dubai Creative Clusters Authority is investing $11 million a year in the industry councils and committees that it has set up to champion key creative industries. These are the Dubai International Film Festival, the Dubai Film and TV Commission and the Dubai Design and Fashion Council.
In an interview with The Arab Weekly, Ayoub Kazim, managing director of the Education Clus­ter, applauded the creation of the DCCA, which, he said, he expected to have” a significant impact on Dubai’s education sector.”
“We envisage the DCCA will sup­port Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village in developing the size and skills of the UAE’s creative talent pool in ed­ucation and provide a platform for research, intelligence and advocacy. Achieving these goals is perfectly aligned with Dubai’s ambition of transitioning into an innovation-led economy,” Kazim said.
About the growth of Dubai’s Edu­cation Cluster and the direction in which it is headed, Kazim noted: “We are proud of the fact that the UAE is currently ranked sixth in the world for higher education and training according to the 2014/15 World Economic Forum Competi­tiveness Index, an impressive feat that highlights the significant pro­gress the country’s education sector is making.”
The UAE’s growing number of international branch campuses, to­gether with the ongoing develop­ment of human capital, has played a major part in this success, he said.
Iona Stanley said she started off on a freelance journalist visa at Dubai Media City, within two months of its opening. In 2005, she upgraded to a company license and has been running a specialist firm, Stanley Communications, since.
“For the last decade and a half, Dubai Media City has truly embod­ied its tagline, ‘The freedom to cre­ate’. The growth and success we have experienced is owed much to the environment around us. It is not just a stylish business address but also a safe and solid one,” Stanley said.