How innovation is driving the UAE’s evolution

How innovation is driving the UAE’s evolution

Posted on 26 July 2021

Role of technology in enabling our lives and driving business forward has never been as important as it is now

Given the tumultuous times of an unfolding pandemic last year, the business world had to navigate through many challenges. However, it was also the catalyst for innovation and digital transformation which saw a greater acceleration than ever before.

We’ve already witnessed a monumental milestone in the UAE’s path to becoming the global hub for innovation: the successfully executed Hope Probe mission to Mars, making it one of only five countries in the world and the first-ever Arab nation to achieve this.

This truly innovative achievement as we entered the Martian atmosphere was a proud moment for us all – citizens and residents alike in the UAE. What it did in particular, is it made me reflect on the culture of innovation that this nation and its leadership have both enabled and created, along with the countless opportunities it brought with it, which have allowed big ideas to snowball into bigger acts of impact as the UAE flexes its innovation muscles.  

As a resident with a lot of pride and respect for this country, I have been inspired watching the carefully considered steps this nation has taken on its journey in this direction.

It was only in the 90s that the first ‘free zone’ was set up, and, looking back, although a seemingly humble act in comparison to the mammoth strides taken since. Even then, even as a start, the goal of creating an enticing space for innovation and big-mindset businesses was clear.

Multiple ‘clusters’ and free zones later, including the launch of the National Innovation Strategy in 2014 and UAE Innovation Month subsequently in 2015, and most recently the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan – the strides keep getting bigger, and the goalposts extend even further.

Innovation combined with national ambition is what drives this country to new heights and setting world standards and records. Innovation is what has allowed the UAE to defy the laws of time, gravity and space, to push the boundaries of exploration and become only the fifth nation in the world to reach the red planet.

And it is this nation’s leadership, their ambition and systems of good governance which have created an ecosystem for innovation to thrive from a primary school classroom, all the way through to high-level boardrooms.  It is also why it is home to CAFU, the first ever on-demand fuel delivery and car service in the Middle East and North Africa region – enabled by the foundations this innovative country has created.

But there’s so much more to the UAE – a whole other dimension to what makes this such a haven for innovation. Sure, we are lucky to have the ecosystem and the infrastructure to thrive, but I personally believe that inspiration has an equal part to play. The leadership here are ambitious and fearless when it comes to the speed and measures taken toward becoming the most innovative country in the world (currently ranked first in the Arab region and 34th globally in the Global Innovation Index 2020).

And it is that thoughtful consideration with which it is done – always to enrich the lives of citizens, residents and even investors, which has a trickle-down effect. When you see your leaders embrace innovation and change rather than fear it, you can’t help but be inspired.

It is also this attitude which has helped this country protect and safeguard its citizens in managing the effects of the global pandemic and to a great degree by supporting the business ecosystem.

This has been one of the biggest motivators for our founder and CEO Rashid Al Ghurair when setting up his businesses, particularly CAFU, which is about setting convenience in motion to make life better.

With innovation thriving across the UAE and the wider region, it is no surprise that start-ups are thriving. In fact, with the backdrop of the challenges of the pandemic, the Middle East attracted $1 billion in start-up investment last year, up 13 percent on the previous year, and this would have been even more without the negative effects of the pandemic coming to the fore.

The role of technology in enabling our lives and driving business forward has never been as important as it is now. In fact, EY reported that businesses are prioritising innovation and technology for the year ahead, with increased investment supporting this by fuelling their growth plans. From their survey of Middle East businesses, EY found that 76 percent of MENA companies plan to increase investments in technology and digital with 87 percent undertaking substantial business and technology transformations to stay relevant and accelerate growth.

The wider role of innovation in MENA business is a key focus with 64 percent of companies aiming to focus more on innovation.

This tells us that the region continues to advance – at pace and scale – with its ambitions, and definitely not standing still. As we continue to navigate through the rest of this year, I salute this nation of innovation for all that it has offered and inspired over the years, and I cannot wait to see the heights we scale together, as we break through the boundaries before us, together we are fuelling our ambition and with it enabling both national and regional pride of a thriving country and region on the world stage


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