UAE’s Public Sector Leads the Nation’s Innovation Drive
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), senior business leaders believe that governments, not SMEs, are the biggest drivers of innovation — the reverse of the view found globally.
In the UAE, 41% of executives polled in the 4th GE Global Innovation Barometer see public organizations as innovation drivers, while globally 40% see small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as the top drivers of innovation. Multinationals come second in the UAE at 26% and SMEs at just 12%.
In fact, the UAE ranks second globally in the perception of its business executives toward government’s effective support to innovation. More than three-quarters of business leaders said government support for innovation is efficiently organized compared with just 40% globally. Additionally, that opinion is supported by a robust 8% over the past year.
This sentiment is only likely to increase, following the recent announcement of a National Innovation Strategy that aims to make the UAE among the most innovative nations in the world within seven years. Already, annual investment in innovation is AED 14 billion, of which AED 7 billion goes to R&D. Innovation spending will rise significantly in the years to come.
The UAE also stands out with its view that the country is in the midst of a new kind of industrial revolution, defined by the meeting of hardware and software. While internationally, only 52% feel this way, nearly 80% do in the UAE.
“The UAE’s business executives see tremendous potential in the integration of hardware and software to promote all-round economic competitiveness, an approach that GE has been promoting in the country,” said Nabil Habayeb, GE’s President & CEO for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
GE describes this combination of software and hardware as the linking of the Industrial Internet and Advanced Manufacturing, resulting in a new Future of Work that enables trends such as just-in-time manufacturing, 3D printing and big-data-enabled efficiency gains in heavy industry and manufacturing. In its Future of Work white paper focused on the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, GE found these forces are not only driving productivity leaps in the region, but also contributing to localized innovation in core growth sectors including energy and healthcare.
However, the GE Innovation Barometer cautioned that there is an urgent need to improve human resource management, with 79% of respondents calling for better alignment of academic curricula to the needs of business. GE is helping the UAE address this by fostering academic-industry linkages.
UAE executives also said other key challenges to innovation include the inability to scale up and a lack of sufficient investment and financial support.
The survey’s findings complement GE’s focus on promoting a culture of localized innovation in the UAE, examples of which include the Ecomagination Center in Masdar City. The Center supports the country’s emphasis on sustainable development and encourages co-creation of innovation solutions in diverse sectors including energy sustainability.
The full GE Global Innovation Barometer report can be viewed online, so take time to dig deeper into how UAE business executives views toward innovation match those of their global peers.