x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Executives confident of power of innovation

Senior executives in the Emirates are the most optimistic globally about the power of innovation to improve people's lives, according to a new global survey.

Senior executives in the Emirates are the most optimistic globally about the power of innovation to improve people's lives.

General Electric (GE) commissioned a survey of 3,000 business leaders in 22 countries, including more than 200 in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to identify drivers and deterrents to innovation.

Respondents in the Middle East showed above-average confidence in the power of innovation - and executives in the Emirates were the most optimistic of all.

More than 90 per cent of respondents in the Middle East agreed innovation was the main ingredient to create a more competitive economy, in line with the global average, while more than 80 per cent in the region said it was the best way to boost employment.

They also agreed it was the main driver to generate a greener economy.

"Innovation is a powerful lever to address the challenges of a growing world, said Beth Comstock, GE's senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GE.

"It allows us to use resources more efficiently, produce more with less and deliver better technologies to help markets drive economic growth and better quality of life.

"We see these results, in some ways, as a rallying cry for business leaders to understand where and how their innovation strategies are being challenged and to drive towards solutions," she added.

The study shows companies in the region are looking at new ways of working this year, often involving collaboration between several partners, and that they value the creative power of small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals, tailoring solutions to meet local needs.

UAE respondents cited creativity and collaboration as being a key driver going forward, and they agreed innovation needs to be localised to address market-specific requirements.

Respondents in the UAE said innovation lay as much in helping address human needs as generating profit. And more than nine out of 10 agreed that it would lead to improvements in people's lives.

Executives in the Emirates identified the energy and healthcare sectors as having the most immediate potential for innovation-driven growth.

But they also stressed the impact it could have in the hospitality industry, retail and fast-moving consumer goods sector.

Business leaders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia reported the highest levels of satisfaction with the innovation environment in their countries, praising government incentives and the ability to bring ideas to the market quickly, in particular.

More than 95 per cent of executives in the Emirates agreed the innovation environment had improved in the past five years, which was above the global average and one of the top results.

However, they said more talent, and in particular technical experts, were needed to enable more innovation on a day-to-day basis, in addition to long-term investors.

"The overarching finding of the survey is that businesses in the region focus on innovation as the main driver to achieve a more competitive economy and to create jobs - both key goals of governmental development strategies," said Nabil Habayeb, GE's chief executive for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region.

"This is a perfect fit to GE's growth approach for the region, where through localised research and development.

"The company has been promoting a culture of innovation to address pressing regional needs across various sectors, including energy, healthcare, aviation and oil and gas," he added.

gduncan@thenational.ae