The UAE is working hard to create an environment that fosters innovation, and the world is taking notice, according to the 2018 GE Global Innovation Barometer, a study focused on the world’s innovation landscape.
More than 2,000 global business executives surveyed give the UAE the second highest increase in perception regarding the country’s “innovation-conducive environment.” The study covered 20 countries around the world, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The study also finds that within the UAE, 61% of executives feel the country has a strong innovation conducive environment. That’s the same rate as the United Kingdom, and higher than both Sweden (59%) and Canada (58%) and just below Germany (65%).
When looking at emerging technologies, executives in the UAE believe that artificial intelligence and smart energy grids will have the largest impact. This aligns with the launch of the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy, and the nation’s focus on promoting digital transformation in the energy sector.
The study, which has been published six times in nine years, recently marked its first-ever international launch at the UAE Government Leadership Talks, organized by the UAE Government Leaders Program and hosted by Alex Dimitrief, President & CEO of GE Global.
Discussion at the event focused on the importance of transforming the region into an important global center of innovation, enabled in part by public-private partnership. They also discussed how creating such an environment could help small- and medium-sized enterprises grow into large companies.
Participants also agreed on the need to strike a balance between maintaining open markets and addressing domestic priorities, and urged stakeholders in emerging economies to have confidence in their ability to innovate.
The Talks are part of an initiative by the UAE Government Leaders Program to promote and strengthen a culture of cooperation between the public and private sectors. A key expected outcome is to enhance the development of the UAE government and contribute to its future direction.
The 2018 Barometer includes insights showing that UAE executives increasingly realize that they must look long term for a return on breakthrough innovation investment, rather than expect short-term gains, with the share of respondents recognizing this rising from 49% in 2016 to 56% in 2018.
At the same time, these executives say that the “difficulty coming up with radical and disruptive ideas” is the top challenge restricting effective innovation.
Globally, the role of multinationals, as opposed to small- and medium-sized enterprises, or governments, as drivers of a country’s innovation is rising.
This positive role for government also is reflected in these business executives having the highest confidence globally in the UAE “government’s ability to regulate innovation appropriately to keep up with innovation itself.”
The executives also have one of the report’s highest confidence rates (85%) in the ability of their companies to attracts and retains the most talented and skilled individuals.
Another positive showing is that UAE executives felt that between 60-69% of innovations over the past five years had meaningfully benefitted their companies, a ratio on par with what US executives say. And like many global peers, a growing number (from 55% to 60%) of executives in the UAE say that when innovating, it is best to “wait to perfect and test the innovation before launch in order to make sure the customer is completely satisfied.”
The study also highlights the importance of digital technologies, with a growing number of executives in the UAE (from 72% in 2016 to 74% in 2018) saying their company “currently puts digital capability at the core of its business model.”
Interestingly, executives in the UAE are more aligned with developed economies than emerging ones with their slightly less bullish view that in the next 10 years, “technological developments such as robotics and automation would radically transform the job market and nature of work.” That is, while 88% of respondents believe the statement is true, that is lower than most emerging market economies.
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