First For Ideas

Innovation Index

Abu Dhabi was ranked first among other capitals in the Arab world in terms of inventions and it shows no signs of slowing momentum as it remains at the forefront of innovation regionally and seeks to move up the ranks globally.

The UAE is often referred to as one of the most technologically advanced countries in the MENA region, and, increasingly, in the world. What sits at the core of this distinction is the Emirates’ determination to constantly innovate and improve on its economic position and competitiveness. When it comes to doing business, one of the major factors necessary to encourage innovation is government support, an area Abu Dhabi has covered. This is where investors can take comfort in knowing that barriers to doing business, competing in the global economy, or even getting a start-up off the ground are minimal and both individuals and organizations can access the knowledge resources they need to invent new products and services, test, re-test, and bring to market innovative solutions—and there is growing amounts of data to prove these claims. In addition to global innovation reports, Abu Dhabi’s capacity to innovate were measured in the city’s first Innovation Index issued in 2014, which evidenced that in the capital of the UAE in particular, the state of innovation is strong and growing stronger year on year as it restructures its economy into a knowledge-based model, a strategic goal outlined in its Economic Vision 2030, the sustainable development plan for the Emirate.

Abu Dhabi’s ability to initiate and embrace innovation is second to none in the region, and the capital is increasingly growing more competitive in its innovation abilities. In numbers, a global report announced by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in October 2014 ranked Abu Dhabi first among Arab capitals in terms of inventions, with 76 inventions being registered between mid-2010 and mid-2014. In the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development’s first Abu Dhabi Innovation Index in 2014, results showed that the city ranked eight out of 23 countries by access to knowledge, and fifth in terms of innovation performance.

The rise of the city as an innovation capital can be seen across every sector of the economy. From using robotics in surgeries and other medical treatments, to utilizing drones to monitor endangered wildlife species in the UAE, to mobile banking solutions, and to tablets and smart boards in classrooms, the business environment in Abu Dhabi is ripe to absorb new technologies and creative solutions that touch the lives of all people in society. As businesses, individuals, investors, and policymakers are today, more than ever, turning to innovation as a means of addressing societal and economic problems, Abu Dhabi aims to transform into a hub where such solutions can take shape.

Abu Dhabi’s high-ranking achievements in the realm of innovation can be attributed to the fact that innovation in the capital, and the UAE as a whole, is more than just a novel idea, but is a matter of government policy implemented at the federal level. Both technological advancement and innovation are being nurtured for growth with government support as the Emirate’s leadership aims to put Abu Dhabi on track to surpass its regional lead and potentially become a leading global innovation center as a result. The UAE capital city indeed has the capabilities to attract the know-how and expertise necessary to nurture innovation locally, advancing progress of society and economy forward and move up further in the rankings in the coming years.

As several industry experts would agree, one of the largest factors impeding the uptake of innovation is the challenge of changing human behavior and turning inventions into commercial successes. Even if the “new” is a significant improvement on the “old,” there can be a lag shifting those comfortable with the old towards the new. Part of the federal innovation strategy in the UAE, and Abu Dhabi, is to weave the concept of innovation into the social fabric that unites all local stakeholders from both government and private sectors, businesses, research institutions, and the UAE population at large.

With its pioneering spirit, Abu Dhabi aims to build on its culture of innovation and improve its position in the annual innovation rankings to close the gaps between its current state of development and its Economic Vision 2030. To get there, innovation is at the top of the economic agenda in the UAE.