UAE home to prominent innovation districts: Middle East designated leading innovation hub in latest Arthur D Little publication

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  • UAE companies benefit from a co-located, concentrated innovation ecosystem and supply chain
  • The Middle East houses a multitude of proven Innovation Districts and centers
  • Arthur D. Little report sheds light on imperative steps before future projects are pursued
Ben Thuriaux-Alemán, a Partner in the Technology and Innovation Management Practice of Arthur D. Little United Kingdom

Dubai, UAE: In the new post-pandemic world of work, Innovation Districts are well-positioned to thrive. With businesses and organizations co-located in physical space for complex supply chains, they can provide flexibility, enable serendipity, and foster innovation for decades to come. However, Innovation Districts must first focus on particular success factors before their full potential is realized. Arthur D. Little (ADL), the leading management consultancy firm with the longest-standing presence in the Middle East region, expound this recommendation in their latest viewpoint entitled “The Future of Innovation Districts.” The publication explains what property owners, municipalities, policymakers, and potential corporate tenants should look for when creating and choosing a world-class Innovation District, elaborating on essential fundamentals and presenting executives with valuable sustainability insights.

“How organizations innovate and their location when pursuing new projects have both changed significantly in recent decades due to convergence and disruption,” explained Dr. Raymond Khoury, Partner and Technology and Innovation Management Practice Lead at Arthur D. Little Middle East. “Rather than closed innovation models, more and more companies have begun opting for open approaches involving cross-industry partnerships and engaging ecosystems. This trend has instigated an underlying need for suitable physical locations where innovation can transpire, ultimately leading to the birth of the Innovation District concept.”

Typically located in urban areas, Innovation Districts are focused on driving inter-firm linkages, collaborations, and networks that are enabled and sustained by a wider ecosystem for innovation. They include a wide range of businesses, from startups to large corporates, and are more physically compact than potentially sprawling innovation clusters. Crucially, the Middle East is home to several Innovation Districts that have delivered successful business outcomes.

The UAE, which has maintained its rank amongst the top 20 countries on the Global Competitive Index over the last five years, has developed many innovation centers that provide the required services for entrepreneurs and businesses to innovate, grow, and become successful. Prominent examples include Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (DTEC), which has attracted 800 startup companies from more than 70 countries since its establishment in 2015. Managed by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), DTEC runs no fewer than five different programs and events to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, working with many local, regional, and global partners to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

“Innovation is high on the agenda for leaders in both the public and private sectors and hence, for economies across the Middle East. Therefore, the number of existing centers and projects planned for the coming period is welcoming and understandable,” said Ben Thuriaux-Alemán, a Partner in the Technology and Innovation Management Practice of Arthur D. Little United Kingdom who has worked on a number of these initiatives in the Middle East. “Those that have already demonstrated success boast robust transport connectivity, proximity and density, flexible accommodation, access to talent and innovation services, and a focus on national priorities. The importance of these common characteristics should always be appreciated before establishing new Innovation Districts, as should numerous successful factors before green-lighting development.”

The Future of Innovation Districts examines why unique selling points (USPs), high-quality talent pipelines, occupancy curation, supply chain representation, and a long-term vision for value and wealth creation are all imperative to Innovation Districts’ sustainability, practicality, and success. The creation of effective technology transfer operations and mixed-use, flexible, and reconfigurable buildings is also discussed, before the viewpoint concludes with a call to action section for particular Innovation District ecosystem players.

“With more executives, university leaders, and local government officials becoming involved in the creation and operational processes, it would be prudent to adopt an articulated focus, promote a world-class proposition, and drive innovation through opportunities creation,” added Dr. Khoury. “Every Innovation District must go above and beyond to surpass traditional business parks and differentiate themselves by accommodating every factor key to success.”

About Arthur D. Little:

Arthur D. Little has been at the forefront of innovation since 1886. We are an acknowledged thought leader in linking strategy, innovation and transformation in technology-intensive and converging industries. We navigate our clients through changing business ecosystems to uncover new growth opportunities. We enable our clients to build innovation capabilities and transform their organizations.

Our consultants have strong practical industry experience combined with excellent knowledge of key trends and dynamics. ADL is present in the most important business centers around the world. We are proud to serve most of the Fortune 1000 companies, in addition to other leading firms and public sector organizations.