Innovation is part of the pillar 'United in Knowledge' of Vision 2021 which focuses on innovative Emiratis building a competitive economy. Read about the steps and initiatives undertaken to encourage innovation in the UAE. According to the annual Global Innovation Index 2022, the UAE maintains its top position as the most innovative country in the Arab world.
The UAE’s ‘2017 Moonshot Apprenticeship Program’ invited elite graduates from distinguished universities, colleges, and academic institutions in the UAE and the world, to collaborate with the UAE in co-creating and piloting innovative solutions to the pressing challenges, the governments face. These solutions will be working prototypes that could be used to create radical changes in the UAE’s journey of development towards the next fifty years.
The programme was announced on 15 February 2021. It received 700 applications from young talents around the world. Only ten apprentices were selected. Through an interactive digital platform, the programme teamed up selected apprentices with a select group of UAE Government officials to work together on designing experimental models that include break-through ideas to address long-term challenges, which will then be adopted by the UAE Government.
The programme lasted for three months from June to August 2021. It resulted in launching the Moonshot Pilot Grant, which is a new public sector innovation fund that invites the international community to test piloting ideas in the UAE.
The grant aims to attract global experts to develop and implement innovative ideas to improve public sector initiatives and enhance the UAE’s readiness for the future. It offers up to 100,000 USD per pilot that will facilitate testing of potential government initiatives and accelerate their development and implementation in the public sector.
Watch this video about 2017 Moonshot Apprenticeship Program.
The main purposes behind encouraging innovation can be summarised as follows:
Innovation is part of the pillar 'United in Knowledge' of Vision 2021 which focuses on innovative Emiratis building a competitive economy. One of the Key Performance Indicators of this pillar is the Global Innovation Index.
The UAE is ranked 31 globally and 1st regionally in the Global Innovation Index 2022. The UAE’s overall rank improved by 2 positions from last year and continues to lead the Arab region for the 7th consecutive year. The UAE’s progress cements its status amongst the world’s most innovative countries.
The UAE adopted its own measurement tools including the Abu Dhabi Innovation Index to monitor progress towards innovation. The index employs existing input and output indicator data across a wide range of socio-economic activities undertaken in 188 countries' economies, to focus on what is of greatest relevance to policymakers, namely the creation of new socio-economic value.
This new index is designed to reflect the innovation that actually matters, by providing a more persuasive interpretation of the data than previous measures, and by generating better comparisons between and within economies.
Several steps and initiatives have been undertaken to promote and encourage innovation in the UAE. Some of the steps are:
National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries
The UAE’s ‘National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries’ aims to promote the growth of the cultural and creative industries’ sector and increase its contribution to 5 per cent of the national GDP by 2031.
Dubai Creative Economy Strategy
The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy aims to transform the emirate Dubai into an international destination for creativity and the capital of creative economy by 2025.
It further seeks to double the contribution of the creative industries to the GDP of Dubai from 2.6 per cent in 2020 to 5 per cent by 2025.
Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation
In September 2014, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum established Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation to stimulate the culture of innovation within the government sector, making the UAE one of the most innovative governments around the world.
The centre accomplished many achievements including:
The programme is conducted in partnership with the University of Cambridge in the UK. It aims to support the government plan to prepare a generation of innovative CEOs in the government entities.
The labs consist of interactive sessions and workshops that use innovative methods to inspire innovative ideas and find solutions to the challenges that face government entities. This is achieved by bringing together all stakeholders to discuss government challenges through solution-focused perspectives.
Ibtikar talks aim to make a serious and comprehensive transformation in government operating model by increasing the effectiveness of processes, keeping up with the latest technological developments. The initiative seeks to enhance national cooperation between the various government entities and to stimulate innovation in key sectors.
The UAE has created a new post titled 'CEO of Innovation' for every government department. This step reflects the UAE's keen interest in investing in management and leadership in the field of innovation.
National Innovation Strategy
2015, a Year of Innovation
In an effort to make the UAE a world leader in innovation, in November 2014, the UAE Cabinet approved the designation of 2015 as the Year of Innovation. Hence, all federal government bodies were directed to boost cooperation and to revise their policies to provide an environment that nurtures innovation.
UAE Innovation Week
The UAE Innovation Week was launched in August 2015, under the directives of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in line with the announcement made by the late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the then President of the UAE declaring 2015 as the Year of Innovation.
The event aimed to help in creating a widespread culture of innovation in the UAE and strengthen its position as a global hub for innovation.
UAE Innovation Month
Following the success of UAE Innovation Week in 2015 and 2016, H. H. Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai ordered to observe ‘Innovation Month’. This year, the special occasion will be observed in February.
Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy
In November 2015, the late H. H. Sheikh Khalifa announced the adoption of the Emirates Science, Technology and Innovation Higher Policy which includes 100 national initiatives with an investment budget of over AED300 billion.
The policy works towards establishing a solid future for coming generation, moving away from the oil sector and creating a sustainable economy that will depend on science, knowledge and technology.
It will include special fields such as space researches, specialised aviation industries, global pharmaceutical industries, solar power, civilian nuclear energy programme, robotics and others.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to Finance Innovation
Read about Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to Finance Innovation.
The UAE Government launched ‘Afkari’, a government initiative at the federal level to support and fund innovative ideas of federal government employees that will contribute to the development of government services in the ministries and entities.
In 2016, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, launched the Dubai Future Accelerators initiative to enable rapid deployment of transformative technologies. The accelerators are programmes and integrated systems designed to help entrepreneurs and innovators turn their ideas into successful companies.
The initiative will bring together top international companies and entrepreneurs to address seven key 21st century opportunities which include:
Dubai - hub for innovation and technology
H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is developing Dubai to be the hub for innovation and technology. Some of the efforts in that direction are mentioned below.
Museum of the Future
The Museum of the Future is a ‘living’ museum with constantly changing contents and exhibits. It will show how the problems of the present can provide the raw material for a better world. It will continuously search for the latest technologies the future holds, making it the largest laboratory for the technologies of the cities, the communities and the governments of the future.
World's first 3D-printed building
In May 2016, Sheikh Mohammed inaugurated the world's first 3D-printed building in Dubai. The building will serve as the Office of the Future.
Read more about the 3D-printed building.
The UAE Hackathon
The UAE Government started an annual nationwide hackathon titled, ‘The UAE Hackathon’ in February 2018. The hackathon involves studying government data to identify gaps and scope for improvement in services. Further, it involves devising solutions and/or designing apps to provide a new level of convenience and benefit for people.
The 6th edition of the hackathon was held in February and March 2023 under the slogan, ‘Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Solutions’. Held by Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), the hackathon engages university and high school students, entrepreneurs, employed people and IT experts to use open data as a tool for coming up with solutions based on specific themes and challenges listed for the hackathon. TDRA is supported by several government and private sector entities. Find the full list of partners.
Data has become one of the most important features of the digital era, and the focus on data in terms of understanding, analysing and employing it has become one of the most important highlights in the transformation towards a digital economy. The UAE Hackathon aims to draw attention to the high value of data and the solutions inherent within it for dealing with daily challenges with regard to the economic, social, environmental and scientific aspects of life.
The themes of the 2023 edition of the hackathon were:
Find answers to FAQs related to the UAE Hackathon.
The UAE hosted the biggest innovation conference in the region in September 2016. The conference took place in Dubai and offered a perfect platform for technological innovations and the role of innovation in a knowledge-based economy.
The event included the Disruptive Innovator Awards, which aims to promote the spirit of innovation and to recognise the people and companies that are driving innovation in the UAE.
In addition, The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Innovation Award is a unique niche award that provides businesses in the GCC a distinctive benchmark for their business practices and performance in innovation.
Learn about more awards given by UAE to encourage innovation.
Being the only Arab country aiming for an innovation-driven economy, the UAE has been developing and upgrading its system of innovation as part of its drive for a knowledge-based economy. The country has recently been named by INSEAD, the leading business school in Europe, as the most innovative country in the Middle East, citing its robust technology infrastructure and high-quality education system.
The UAE's key achievements in innovation include: