I can still remember the speech that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, delivered at the 2015 Government Summit in Dubai. During that address, he outlined his optimism as well as his pragmatism for the future of this nation.
Sheikh Mohamed also posed a question of national self-evaluation to the audience: “In 50 years, when we might have the last barrel of oil, and when it is shipped abroad, will we be sad?” he asked.
“If we are investing today in the right sectors, I can tell you we will celebrate at that moment,” he said.
In my opinion, in the years since that speech, the UAE has made significant progress to invest in the “right sectors”. We have also been assertive in mobilising science, technology and innovation to diversify our economy, while trying to solve some of the biggest challenges of our age.
We are purposefully tailoring our investments towards areas that will help us future-proof the economy, as well as society.
The UAE has made its mark as a centre for innovation, ranking first regionally in the Global Innovation Index for six years in a row. Similarly, Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy has flourished thanks to transformative policies and initiatives linked to the transition away from hydrocarbons.
I’ve seen many examples of creative solutions and technologies developed in Abu Dhabi that improve lives and livelihoods alike. The emirate is keen to nurture the best home-grown businesses and to partner with proven international innovators.
One of those “right” sectors is agricultural technology, essential to address global food scarcity. As part of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s Innovation Programme, Pure Harvest Smart Farms uses food production systems to grow fruit and vegetables in a climate-controlled environment. This enables year-round production while using seven times less water compared to traditional farming methods.
Government support has enabled the production of tomatoes, strawberries and leafy greens in Pure Harvest’s UAE farms. It continues to increase commercial production capabilities, with its tomatoes available at major supermarkets in Abu Dhabi. The company also plans to add varieties not commonly grown in the desert.
Further up the food supply chain, Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI) dramatically reduces water consumption needed for food production in Abu Dhabi.
RDI has more than 20 hectares of trial projects in open fields, greenhouses and indoor farms that are yielding harvests using less than half the amount of water normally used for irrigation. In the emirate’s arid climate, RDI’s AgriTech solution helps to address the issue of water scarcity.
Our innovations are not confined to this planet alone. One of the most ambitious and exciting projects that I’ve witnessed lately is the StarLab Oasis, which will use the unique and harsh environment of space to develop commercially viable organisms and products in the fields of AgriTech, climate science, sustainability and robotic innovation. The lab is under construction and is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Many other credible innovations are driving progress across other priority sectors. Abu Dhabi is propelling the information and communications technology sector by focusing on building human capital, bringing in specialist skillsets and deepening the talent pool.
Logistics and technology solutions company Lyve was one of the first companies to establish a 100 per cent foreign-owned entity on mainland Abu Dhabi. With a team of more than 100 engineers, Lyve’s team has achieved 100 million deliveries and penetrated new markets worldwide.
Meanwhile, digital identity company Callsign, founded in London, has gained strong commercial traction in the region. It has secured contracts with UAE banks to strengthen intelligence and fraud prevention systems with a promising regional pipeline it is pursuing from Abu Dhabi. Callsign has also invested in an apprenticeship programme to attract local talent and is developing research and development partnerships with local universities.
These are just some of the many examples of innovation concepts being developed in Abu Dhabi. They are creating real solutions with tangible benefits. Here in Abu Dhabi, our model for innovation will continue to be driven by efforts to deliver breakthroughs to real world challenges.
Mohamed Al Dhaheri is acting executive director – Business Enterprise at Adio
Updated: February 16th 2022, 4:30 AM