Interview: Sultan Al Jaber

What initiatives is the UAE pursuing to drive the growth of its non-oil economy?

SULTAN AL JABER: The UAE’s real GDP is projected to expand by 3.3% in 2023, reflecting a robust economic outlook. Strategic visions are guiding the development of the key sectors that are powering the UAE’s economic diversification, such as tourism, real estate, construction and transport. Manufacturing, another engine of economic growth, is set to contribute significantly to GDP over the coming decade as the industrial strategy Operation 300bn gains momentum. Launched in May 2021, this 10-year initiative has been crucial to boosting the economy, particularly in the context of geopolitical tensions and the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2022 the industrial sector contributed more than Dh180bn ($49bn) to the economy, and industrial exports reached Dh174bn ($47.4bn), demonstrating the global competitiveness of national industries, as well as effectiveness of the UAE’s Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements. Operation 300bn is aligned with other national strategies that are promoting the growth of the country’s non-oil economy. For instance, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology’s (MoIAT) efforts support Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the UAE’s overall energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050.

How can sector-specific strategies help the country achieve its clean energy targets?

AL JABER: Not only is the UAE seeking to utilise more renewable energy sources to power industries, but the Technology Transformation Programme is also focused on promoting the adoption of advanced technologies and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) solutions. This approach includes everything from the industrial internet of things, which increases efficiency and reduces waste, to carbon capture, utilisation and storage. In addition to targeting economic growth, the UAE is committed to ensuring its own long-term sustainability.

Each of the sector-specific strategies, including Operation 300bn, is aligned with the UAE’s Net Zero 2050 initiative. The MoIAT works closely with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to support emissions reductions through standards, policies, regulations, legislation and technology adoption.

Which industrial sectors are expected to see the most benefit from new technologies?

AL JABER: Operation 300bn aims to transform the industrial sector and increase its role in the country’s overall economy. As one of the major areas of economic growth driving the country’s transformation into a global centre for advanced industries, the strategy is responsible for making industries more productive and competitive on the global stage. The UAE aims to achieve this in part through the adoption of advanced technologies under the Technology Transformation Programme. This initiative incentivises and empowers companies to adopt 4IR solutions and technologies that ultimately help to improve quality, productivity, sustainability, efficiency and competitiveness. A vital pillar of the UAE’s technological transformation is the Industrial Technology Transformation Index, a comprehensive framework that measures the digital maturity and sustainability of factories, and formulates a roadmap to help companies pursue digitalisation.

One particular sector that stands to benefit from Operation 300bn is hydrogen as an energy source. Hydrogen is set to transform the way the world harnesses, stores and distributes renewable energy, but the industry must first overcome a series of technological barriers to realise its full potential. Through partnerships and various initiatives launched under Operation 300bn, the UAE is fostering technological advancements to unlock the hydrogen economy. In fact, the UAE is aiming to increase its share of the global hydrogen fuel market to 25% by 2030 as part of its plans to diversify its energy mix and economy.