DUBAI // 3M, the maker of everything from medical supplies to coatings for oil and gas pipelines, has launched its first Middle Eastern innovation centre in Dubai.
Although it will not conduct fundamental research there, the US-based company said the facility would provide a platform for collaborating on application development with local companies, universities and government entities.
While the centre will be used by the company to gain insights from its customers on how to better develop its products, it could also be a valuable tool for local entrepreneurs. "This could be a portal, a perfect opportunity for a small start-up with a lack of infrastructure or with only a piece of a technical component," said Larry Wendling, who oversees 3M's corporate research.
Demonstrations at the centre show how the company's tiny glass microspheres, for instance, are used for products including reflective paint on pavement and road signs, dental crowns and adhesives on disposable nappies.
"This is a platform for collaboration with the Government, clearly the next step, as well as joint product development with business entities and development for the local market," said Irfan Malik, the vice president of 3M Middle East and Africa.
"It is also an opportunity to work with universities and academics in terms of the depth of knowledge with material sciences."
The company expects to draw at least 10,000 visitors a year to the centre. It opened its first innovation centre in Japan in 1997, and has since launched similar sites around the world. The Dubai centre is the company's 23rd.
The new facility opened in Dubai Internet City close to 3M Gulf headquarters. It comes shortly after the company opened a new manufacturing facility in Sharjah to increase its presence in the UAE.