When the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) was created last year, its mandate called for it to deliver economic and social returns to Abu Dhabi. While the economic returns depend on ATIC's ability to turn around the businesses of two unprofitable microchip makers, the social returns are even more ambitious: to bring an advanced technology industry to the emirate. ATIC has acquired Chartered Semiconductor from Temasek Holding, Singapore's equivalent of Mubadala Development. And Singapore demonstrates what can be gained from such investments.
The city-state has become one of the world's leading exporters of electronics and home to a thriving high-technology sector. Abu Dhabi has put big money into its high-tech hopes, investing in research centres, universities and advanced manufacturing. ATIC has already put US$2.1 billion (Dh7.71bn) into Globalfoundries, its chipmaking joint venture. It said it will spend up to $6bn more on new capacity.
Bring the Chartered deal into the equation, and it is not hard to see ATIC's microchip investments hitting $10bn. But with a small population and a limited pool of technical talent, Abu Dhabi's aim to become a big player in the industry can be challenging. Aside from cash injections, it will need, as the chief executive of ATIC, Ibrahim Ajami, said, "focus, the right level of expertise and a solid execution mindset". This is not rocket science, but it is not far from it.