What Makes Dubai A Tech Innovation Hub?

by Azam Mahmood Butt    Apr 18, 2016


Dubai is turning out to be a hub for technology and business innovation. The city that sits at a strategic location along the Persian Gulf, is going all guns blazing to transform itself into a technologically advanced, ‘smart’ city. The decision is aimed at making the emirate more attractive for technology firms and supporting the job market, thus strengthening Dubai’s economy and related sectors.

Its superior airports and ports, as well as logistic and communications infrastructure make it a natural pit stop for goods moving from one part of the world to the other and for businesses looking to delve deeper into the wider Middle East and African region. But not content with its existing prowess as the top investment and business destination in the region, Dubai is now looking to stand shoulder to shoulder with the most innovative cities of the world in the next seven years as part of UAE’s Vision 2021.

Making Dubai an IT hub

In 2014, the government announced plans of investing AED 4.5 billion in order to make Dubai a hub for global tech entrepreneurs and businesses. The investment was to include a massive centre of communications and technology facilities spanning 150,000 square metres and funding the expansion of Dubai Design District to produce incubation centres for creative entrepreneurs in the free zones. The investment also had provision for facilitating small to medium startups with contemporary technological assistance and adequate office spaces to spur sectorial growth.

The government of UAE even declared 2015 the ‘Year of Innovation’, fuelling technological development and encouraging individuals to go down the path of innovation.

Throughout the outgoing year, events like the Defence Innovation and Technology Conference, The Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, Zayed Future Energy Prize, Innovator and Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge kept interest in the tech sector building and saw individuals from among the local Emirati and the vast international expat population come up with unique innovations and ideas to garner well-deserved accolades. The government’s firm attention to transforming the city has also proved a catalyst for young entrepreneurs from across the world to come to Dubai and try their luck.

Pushing ahead

And the icing on the cake came in the form a new fund launched by Dubai’s ruler in November 2015 to further promote technological progress. Christened the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to Finance Innovation, the fund worth AED 2 billion ($544 million) will provide financing solutions for innovators across various sectors within the UAE and support them in transforming ideas and suggestions into innovative projects.

The fund will look to enhance funding opportunities in areas of innovation by providing funding to entrepreneurs and innovators and making way for guarantees that make commercial loans required for the projects accessible. An entrepreneur’s dream, right?

Which is why respondents who took part in HSBC’s Expat Explorer 2015 survey ranked Dubai highly for the opportunities it provided to expat entrepreneurs. The respondents, all with international working experience named Dubai top among 15 global cities polled for professional and private facilities.

Income matters

Another feature that makes Dubai more attractive for startups and entrepreneurs is the taxation – rather the lack of it – on income. Earners get to spend all their income and there’s not much that can make a worker happier. Import duty stands at a tiny 5%, making acquisitions of materials and products from the global basket of goods a much less costly affair.

Considering its central location on the map and the perks of operating out of this remarkable city, real estate in Dubai is still considered a bargain compared to other global cities like Singapore and Hong Kong. So office spaces will not really burn through the pockets of an entrepreneur looking to invest limited capital into a novel idea. According to UAE property web portal Bayut.com, offices in Dubai can be rented for as low as AED 25,000 ($6,806) per annum.

The emirate also features a cosmopolitan society and its mixed population provides businesses with a workforce hailing from over 150 countries. The emirate’s security is as fool proof as it gets and is being further improved by stringent e-governance protocols.

There remains little doubt that Dubai’s conducive business and social environment and its renewed efforts to become the leader in innovation are sure fire recipes for a sparkling future for the city. But of course, Dubai’s beautiful beaches are awaiting should you feel the need to relax away from the stress of managing your successful tech venture the city will happily help you run.

(The writer is the chief editor at Bayut.com, UAE’s leading realty web portal)