Interview: Amina Al Rustamani
What initiatives are in place to encourage entrepreneurship and fund innovative business ideas?
AMINA AL RUSTAMANI: We are very active in this space, and nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation is core to our strategy, in line with the government’s vision for a diversified and innovation-led economy. Historically, we have always offered start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers space through our business centres, workshops and networking opportunities. This continues, but we are now doing even more.
We launched our incubation programme in 2013 with our first innovation centre, Dubai Internet City’s in5, which has proven hugely successful as an incubator for tech start-ups with great business ideas. We will be rolling out prototypes of this successful innovation centre, tailored to each of our six business sectors, over the coming years.
To that end, we have recently announced a Dh60m ($16.3m) investment in a new innovation centre, in5 Media. This will be dedicated to the media sector and located in Dubai Production City.
With the new Dubai Design District, “d3”, set to boost Dubai’s creative scene, what is the next step in catching up with other global design centres?
AL RUSTAMANI: We are proud of what is being created at d3. The development is a deliberate response to a real market need, and is already a busy and dedicated home for the region’s creative talent. It also forms a central plank of the UAE’s vision to transform into an innovation-led economy.
While we of course want d3 to be recognised as a global centre for design, in the way that both London and Paris currently are, we also want it to evolve in its own unique way. The d3 concept will be distinct; it needs to focus on and cater to the region specifically, in terms of its designers and consumers, but should also whet the appetite of international markets. We actually studied London and Paris closely as we prepared to launch d3 and its overall master plan. Unlike areas such as Shoreditch in East London, which grew organically, we are building a creative hub from scratch in Dubai. To do this, we regularly reach out to the regional design community, to ensure our community grows in a way that really works for them. It should inspire, engage and enable collaboration, with the ultimate ambition of gaining more global recognition and interest in the Arab design scene. It is still early days, but we have achieved a huge amount already and are well on the way to being the region’s leading design destination.
Which sectors present the strongest growth potential over the next five years and why?
AL RUSTAMANI: We know from the Dubai Design and Fashion Council’s recently commissioned Deloitte study, the MENA Design Outlook Report, that the design and fashion sectors in the Middle East have significant growth potential. MENA constitutes over 4.5% of the global design market, which was valued at $2.3bn in 2014, and the MENA fashion retail market was estimated to be worth $75m in 2014. This has outpaced global industry growth by nearly five times since 2010, leveraging the strong position Dubai already has in the luxury, retail and tourism sectors. This should be the case for the creative industries more generally as innovation is encouraged.
There are a variety of other sectors that should benefit over the next five years, in line with the UAE government’s vision. The tourism and leisure sector offer growth opportunities as we look to secure 20m tourists by 2020. The construction and infrastructure sectors should see opportunities stemming from the hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will have broader benefits across numerous service-led sectors. Meanwhile, IT and technology should see growth potential resulting from the Smart Dubai initiative, which could see an investment value worth over $5m by 2019.
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