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 2019, 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.
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 Global Innovative Index measures the performance of innovation in countries. Innovation inputs are measured based on institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, market sophistication and business sophistication. While innovation outputs are measured by knowledge and technology outputs and creative outputs.
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.
Innovation events and awards
The UAE Hackathon – Data for Happiness
The UAE Government started an annual nationwide hackathon titled ‘The UAE Hackathon – Data for Happiness’ in February 2018. The hackathon involved using government data to invent apps that provide solutions/services for the benefit of people.
The UAE is pursuing an active role in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, primarily, artificial intelligence and smart city. Data has become one of the most important features of the digital era, and the focus on data in terms of understanding, analysis and employment has become one of the most important highlights in the transformation towards a digital and knowledge economy. In view of this, the wise leadership of the UAE launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy, the National Innovation Strategy, and other national plans that form part of the mechanisms of making the future.
The UAE Hackathon is an integral part of these national trends, and it aims to draw attention to the high value of data and the solutions inherent within it when dealing with daily challenges with regard to the economic, social, environmental and scientific aspects of life. The hackathon aimed to use data to develop innovative solutions and ideas that contribute to the happiness of the community. It also aimed to engage a significant number of students with participants from other sectors of the society as well to develop modern solutions based on the analysis of available data.
The UAE Hackathon revolves around several challenges, which include:
Transportation and traffic congestion
Health and safety
Sustainable development (post-oil age)
Environment and climate change
Enhancement of social relations in the UAE community
Enhancement of lifestyle
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.
Several steps and initiatives have been undertaken to promote and encourage innovation in the UAE, all corresponding with Vision 2021 and aiming to make the UAE among the best countries in the world by the golden jubilee of the union. Some of the steps are:
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.
Government innovation labs
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.
'CEO of Innovation', a new post in government entities
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.
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 H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 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, H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan 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.
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.
Dubai Future Accelerators
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:
the application of cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics
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
Towards achieving that, in March 2015, he launched Museum of the Future which will become a unique incubator for futuristic innovations and designs and also a major tourist destination. The Museum of Future will offer a platform to demonstrate and test the latest inventions and prototypes from up and coming start-ups and the world's technology giants. It will host innovation facilities and design studios with universities, companies, and research partners. It will also offer advanced courses and specialised workshops, as well as public talks and events.
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.
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:
Development of education and the introduction of computers and smart devices in schools
Expanding the creation of higher eEducation institutions
Establishing a number of complexes and research institutions and technical institutes to promote research, creativity and innovation, such as:
Spreading and providing information and communications technology to the public
Encouraging the culture of eLearning in the governmental and non-governmental sectors
Formation of the Supreme Committee of UAE Innovation from a number of federal agencies
Executing a Collaborative Care Agreement between the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority-TDRA within the Be'tha scholarship programme to provide the opportunity to study at the best international universities in the specialisations that serve the information and communications sector.