Spotlight on Innovation in the UAE
Interview with Mohammed Saeed Al Shehhi, Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Design District
How do you see the innovation ecosystem in the UAE? Who are the key players?
Over the past 15 years or so, Dubai has developed into a dynamic knowledge-economy, with thriving industries and a growing creative scene. The government is now focusing its efforts on promoting innovation across Dubai to promote the Emirate as an innovation-led economy, and the Innovation Strategy announced last year outlined innovation as a key priority for 2015 “The Year of Innovation”
We have seen genuine ecosystems that champion innovation and creativity emerge across the Emirate – d3 for example is pioneering innovation across the design sector, and its Creative Community, set to launch in 2018, will play a major role in encouraging innovation in design, fashion etc.
The government’s commitment is essential to promote the UAE’s innovation ecosystem, and it is also key that the private sector work closely with the government to promote innovation across their sectors, support emerging talent, provide platforms for entrepreneurs and so on
SMEs and entrepreneurs tend to be the innovators globally and particularly in the UAE where entrepreneurship is highly encouraged due to the business environment the government has carefully created and managed. Larger companies have a critical role too in training future entrepreneurs and talent investment in R&D.
Innovation Week will shine a spotlight on just how far the UAE has come in terms of its development into an innovation-led economy, and is a platform for government entities as well as private companies, universities and academic institutions to display their latest innovations and work together to strengthen the UAE’s position as a leading global innovation hub
This is the first time the UAE Innovation Week takes place; what impact our outcome do you expect of it?
The aim of UAE Innovation Week, comes in line with the initiative of the President High Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, marking 2015 as the “Year of Innovation”, to serve as a definitive platform for innovation and innovators in the region.
Innovation Week is to be the spark that ignites dialogue that will help shape the future of the UAE. Like design, Innovation Week asks its subjects to take another approach to a whole host of questions, industries and sectors so that we may facilitate new solutions achieved through a new perspective.
As our residents, businesses and organisations channel their thinking to focus on innovative techniques and approaches, innovation week will facilitate a new realm of creativity and thinking that initiates change, across all industries, including design.
Tell us more about d3 and the role it is playing in innovation week?
d3 is hosting a series of workshops and events, aimed at both members of the public and its business partners. Firstly, in partnership with Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and Rochester Institute of Technology, d3 looks to inspire the innovators of the future with their MaKey MaKey workshop for children aged 4 to 12. The workshop invites children to practice using computational thinking and interactive design, where they will be able to turn everyday materials into innovative controllers.
We also seek to constantly engage and inspire the design community through unique, interactive events and so for Innovation Week introduces the GE Garage, which takes visitors on a journey through innovation. The space is divided into three segments: ‘Develop & Discover’ shows guests how GE uses innovative technology and processes in its manufacturing and development using interactive 3D printers; the ‘Learn’ area comprises an outdoor cinema screening the exclusive, recently-released ‘Breakthrough Series’ in association with National Geographic’: ‘Act’ educates visitors using headsets that measures brain waves of people when eating different kinds of sweet and spicy food’. The GE Garage will be a multi-sensory experience designed to bring innovation to life.
We’re also excited to announce that we’re partnering with Space Syntax, a UK based company, which brings a unique workshop, entitled, “Optimization of urban and architecture planning: d3 Creative Community Case Study” that will discuss designs that encourage human interaction as an innovative way of developing spatial layout. The company has worked on projects ranging from Harrod’s, to the Victoria & Albert Museum and boroughs throughout London ranging from Shoreditch to Chelsea & Kensington, in order to forecast the impact of planning, transport, building design and social interaction on the planned objectives of the individual projects and we’re thrilled to be able to invite our business partners to this.
How can GE and d3 continue working together to drive innovation in country?
The fundamental power of innovation is empowering people to think outside the box and not to accept the pre-existing rules and regulations. To continue working together to drive innovation in the county both parties must continue this path of new discovery, whether this is through hosting workshops, undertaking research or starting new conversations.
What would you say to encourage both the public and private sector to be on board with driving innovation in the country?
Innovation is the engine of future growth, and we must do everything we can to support the future generation of leaders, creators, and thinkers – our visionary leadership’s aspiration is to develop UAE institutions into innovative hubs that will positively impact the whole UAE community, and innovation and creativity should be embraced across all sectors,
All major initiatives start with the overarching leadership and encouragement of the government. They have the influence over policy and the wider public sector to foster the conditions that inspire and encourage an innovation led culture. Business, especially the private sector, craves clarity and if they know that innovation is what the government is trying to encourage they will make the most of this.
Fortunately in the UAE the government and its various related entities have made this very clear and the economy is becoming increasingly unified when it comes to investing in innovation and manufacturing the ecosystem required.
We should all be looking to promote a culture of innovation across the UAE, supporting entrepreneurs and the development of local ecosystems, as well as continuing to attract businesses and individuals from around the world, who we can learn from and exchange knowledge with.