GE and the UAE: Nurturing Innovation to Drive Transformation
By Rania Rostom, Chief Innovation & Communications Officer, GE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey
At the beginning of this month, GE hosted the first Minds + Machines Summit in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. Now, at the end of the month as we mark UAE Innovation Week, it seems entirely fitting that GE held the summit here in the United Arab Emirates.
The purpose of Minds + Machines was to share with regional customers how we are driving innovation in the industrial sector by merging the digital and the industrial. In this way, we are improving the efficiency, productivity and reliability of customer infrastructure, systems, equipment and factories.
There is a strong parallel between what we are doing at GE, as we transform into a digital industrial company, and what the UAE leadership and people are doing to transition from an oil-based economy to one that is knowledge based and reaching further toward a vision to become one of the most innovative countries on the planet.
Both GE and the UAE are aspiring to reimagine themselves and the role they play in the broader world. With such a shared mission, it’s no surprise that GE has invested so much into our innovation ecosystem in the UAE.
One of the most important is the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. The center is a hive of creative innovation that is addressing local, regional and global customer challenges. Not only does it provide training in advancing energy and water efficiency, it also features the UAE’s first GE Garages maker space, where workshops use 3D printer models and other Advanced Manufacturing technologies to demonstrate how manufacturing is changing. As well, GE’s cyber-security for critical industrial infrastructure company Wurldtech, has an office in the center.
In Dubai, GE recently opened the GE Middle East Aviation Technology Center, which is working with UAE and regional airlines to use GE’s Industrial Internet solutions to accelerate productivity and efficiency in areas that address local aviation technologies and system challenges.
We also are working with academia, in this case the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology, on two projects of great relevance to the region. The first is the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, which aims to develop next-generation biofuel options for the aviation industry. We also are supporting Masdar’s work to pilot and commercialize the first complete energy-neutral advanced wastewater treatment solutions, by jointly developing Industrial Internet solutions that will help optimize system efficiencies.
Other GE projects to support a culture of innovation in the UAE is a four-week robot-building program for girls aged 9-11 that teaches coding and Advanced Manufacturing.
GE also is partnering with regional entrepreneurship incubator Wamda in a mentorship program during which 10 MENA-based startups are paired with 20 GE employees to learn from each other.
We also are supporting local innovation through the recently signed 12-month cooperation agreement with the UAE Ministry of Economy to support the Federal Government in embedding innovation into its organizational culture. This includes an innovation speaker series led by GE and other innovation experts, a GE Garages workshop and site visits to some of the innovation centers mentioned earlier.
As the UAE has shown with the success of its many sector-focused free zones, everyone benefits from the mutually reinforcing, virtuous cycle of innovation begetting innovation. Not only does GE directly contribute to the culture of innovation in the United Arab Emirates, but we also are inspired by the vision, the planning and the commitments being made to see this country become a global leader in innovation.