The UAE aims to become one of the most innovative countries in the world in the next seven years under a national strategy launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
The National Innovation Strategy will focus on seven sectors: renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space.
Its first phase includes 30 national initiatives to be completed within three years. These include new legislation, innovation incubators, investment in specialised skills, private-sector incentives, international research partnerships, and an innovation drive within government.
“Our target is to be among the most innovative nations in the world. The competitiveness race demands a constant flow of new ideas, as well as innovative leadership using different methods and tools to direct the change,” said Sheikh Mohammed at the launch of the strategy.
“This innovation strategy is a national priority for our programme of development and progress. It is a primary tool to achieve Vision 2021 and an engine for the growth of distinctive skills and capabilities across the nation. We have always called for creativity in every field: this strategy is a concrete step to implement that vision. These initiatives around innovation will enhance quality of life in the UAE and take our economy to new horizons,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
The first track will anchor a stimulating environment for innovation in the form of supportive institutions and laws. It will shape specialised entities such as innovation incubators as well as technological infrastructure to fuel innovation in all sectors. It will also focus on research and development in various fields.
The second track will develop government innovation by institutionalising innovative practices with the support of an integrated system of modern tools. The strategy requires all government entities to reduce spending by 1 per cent and to dedicate the savings to research and innovation projects. National training and education programmes on innovation will also be launched.
The third track will encourage private sector innovation by stimulating companies to establish scientific research centres, to adopt new technologies, and to develop innovative products and services. The UAE will attract pioneering international firms in key innovation sectors, establish innovation communities and zones, and support applied research in areas of national priority. It will also enhance the UAE’s position as an international centre to test new innovations.
The fourth track will qualify individuals with highly innovative skills by concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including the creation of educational material for schools and universities. The aim is to establish a national culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through partnerships between the public, private and media sectors.
“Innovation today is driven by effective institutions, strong policies, specialised skills, and an economy where all sectors work together to discover new ways to conduct business. A flexible and creative economy based on a national culture of innovation is the fastest and most sustainable way to reinforce the UAE’s competitiveness on a global level,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Current annual investment in innovation is worth Dh14 billion in the UAE, of which Dh7 billion goes to research and development. Innovation spending will rise significantly in the years to come.
The National Innovation Strategy includes 16 indicators to measure progress. Government-sector indicators include the percentage of innovative ideas and the proportion of budget allocated to innovation. Private-sector indicators include R&D investment and the knowledge profile of the workforce. Global indicators include an overall measure comparing countries’ innovation capabilities, as well as indicators for the protection of intellectual property, the creation of patents and the availability of scientists and engineers.
In the field of renewable energy, the strategy will establish a new organisation to facilitate decentralised power generation projects such as small-scale solar installations. The strategy will also encourage innovation in the renewables industry while also supporting applied research in clean technology.
In transportation, the strategy will stimulate innovation in air and sea travel as well as logistics. The aim is to provide new products and services, make procedures more effective, and save time. The strategy will also focus on unmanned drones.
In education, the strategy will establish labs in schools and universities as part of a drive to equip students with targeted skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, perseverance and adaptability.
In health, the strategy will promote advanced technologies in healthcare services. It will stimulate the growth of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries while also working with strategic partners to support medical research.
On the topic of water, the strategy will seek innovative solutions to the challenge of water scarcity.
Finally, the strategy will support space technology for the purpose of exploration as well as satellite communications and specialised research on terrestrial applications.