Looking Ahead: The UAE Business View on Innovation

Looking Ahead: The UAE Business View on Innovation

June 22, 2016 at 12:06pm

The UAE strives to be one of the world’s most innovative countries – and contributing to innovation is foremost on everyone’s mind. For business executives, it is the way their companies will work going into the future, so it’s a positive sign that 77% of those surveyed saying their company has a clear innovation strategy in place. At the same time, 85% worry about “Digital Darwinism,” i.e., that their company could be left behind as technology evolves faster than they can adapt.

How do we know all of this? Because we’ve just unveiled the UAE results of its 2016 GE Global Innovation Barometer, which explores how business leaders and members of the public in 23 countries around the world perceive the opportunities for, and barriers to, innovation in a complex global environment. You can take a look at the UAE findings here.

Rania Rostom, who is Chief Innovation Officer for GE in the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey is passionate about supporting localized innovation in this digital industrial era, and is working through the Masdar City-based GE Ecomagination Innovation Center to develop never-before-seen hardware and software solutions focused on the needs of the region.

The results of the survey show regional readiness for solutions like these that combine hardware with the power of software and analytics. UAE executives are increasingly recognizing the strategic value of big data and analytics to improve strategic knowledge and inform decision-making, with 58% identifying this as crucial to innovation, up from 47% in 2014. Good news then, that 82% of UAE executives say their companies have the ability to analyze large amounts of data, up from 50% in 2014.

As nearly 90% of UAE executives believe Advanced Manufacturing will radically transform the industrial sector over next 10 years, they believe the two best practices for fostering and enabling reliable and radical innovation are to have a clear process and structure in place to manage innovation, and to reward those within the organization who create the next innovation that will make one of their products/services obsolete.

Yet, UAE executives (63%) are less likely than global peers (74%) to mention “innovating organically, leveraging the existing skills and resources within the company” as one of their company’s innovation focus areas. However, with regard to another focus area for innovation — incremental innovation that improves existing products and solutions – they are exactly in line with the global average of 63%.

Jobs and innovation

When asked what key skills UAE executives look for in new hires, the executives answered that “analytical skills,” “seeing the big picture,” and “strong interpersonal skills” are most important.

Just over 70% of UAE executives believe that a lack of talent or skills are preventing their business from innovating efficiently, so it’s no wonder that 76% of UAE executives agree that talent acquisition is the most important factor in successful innovation. Despite this, the UAE is one of only a few countries globally that feels overwhelmingly (74%, compared to the global average of 59%) that their education system is ready to answer the future skills challenge.

The power of the startup culture is strong in the UAE, with 79% of business executives agreeing with the idea that the startup ethos is increasingly becoming the preferred norm for creating an innovation culture for companies of all sizes.

Energy sector

UAE executives believe that innovation in the energy sector will mostly likely impact “energy efficiency,” “the carbon footprint” and “energy independence.” They believe innovation is least likely to impact “cost of energy.”

Over the past few years, UAE energy companies say they have seen innovation most strongly impact the improvement of existing products and services (cited by 57%), as well as the development of new business processes that have improved profitability. Least often mentioned, among choices offered, was the development of entirely new business models (cited by 36%).

GE is a partner to the UAE’s ongoing innovation drive, through initiatives such as the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center, the GE Middle East Aviation Technology Center, participation in the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology-led Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, and a 12-month cooperation agreement with the UAE Ministry of Economy to support the Federal Government in embedding innovation into its organizational culture.

GE supports innovation across the region through a wide range of activities, including developing patented technologies in Saudi Arabia, building innovation centers that nurture collaborative thinking and new region-focused approaches, launching innovation challenges that address issues with specific relevance to MENAT, and working with customers to overcome their unique challenges.

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