Our Future initiative aims to give Emirati start-ups global reach
A private philanthropic fund set up to support Emiratis in their careers and encourage entrepreneurship launched an initiative on Sunday to help prepare future generations for a post-oil era.
The “Our Future” initiative, announced by Sandooq Al Watan, or National Fund, plans to support UAE-based start-ups by expanding their global reach, building innovation centres and promoting a culture of research and development within local companies.
“The vision is simple but inspiring – how to create the next Emirati Google or Tesla that will become a household name and have massive economic benefits,” said Mohamed Al Qadhi, the fund’s general manager.
“We want to support ideas which will provide the same contributions which oil has and is currently contributing to the GDP,” he said.
The initiative’s first stage will focus on funding new concepts in the fields of aerospace, water management and genomics – sectors which are already developed in the country – in a three-year pilot programme to the tune of Dh30 million, which is set to be matched by other companies.
The sectors, which are based on areas the government is focusing on as well as those with existing infrastructure, were chosen to maximise the possibility of success and to encourage others to invest in research and development, something that is gravely lacking in the UAE, Mr Al Qadhi said.
“If you look at any local company’s profit measured up to the money they invest in research and development I guarantee you it is not enough. What is Dh10 million or Dh20m for a company making billions of dirhams – it’s nothing,” he said.
“If you are just a receiver of already existing technology you will never become a proper knowledge-based economy and achieve the aspirations the country has set out.”
Success in chosen fields could take the form of the development of new patents, software, products, or re-engineering, all of which can have large-scale economic, health and social impact, he said.
As part of the initiative, the first of three planned innovation hubs will be open in Abu Dhabi next year.
All will be accessible to the public and include figures from academic institutes and local and international tech companies.
“They will provide guidance, mentoring, licensing and marketing, financial and legal support and more – the whole nine yards. You’ll have an entire entrepreneurship ecosystem under one roof,” said Mr Al Qadhi.
“There have been great local ideas but most of the time the entities do not take the innovation and incubate them, which is exactly what we plan to do,” he added.
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Updated: June 18, 2017 04:00 AM