UAE launches plan to be ‘among the most innovative nations in the world’ within 7yrs

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, on Sunday launched a new strategy to make the country one of the world’s most innovative within seven years.

Announcing the National Innovation Strategy, Sheikh Mohammed said it would focus on seven sectors – renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space.

Its first phase includes 30 national initiatives to be completed within three years including new legislation, innovation incubators, investment in specialised skills, private-sector incentives, international research partnerships, and an innovation drive within government, news agency WAM reported.

It quoted Sheikh Mohammed as saying: “The UAE is already the most innovative Arab nation. Our target is to be among the most innovative nations in the world. The competitiveness race demands a constant flow of new ideas, as well as innovative leadership using different methods and tools to direct the change.

“This innovation strategy is a national priority for our programme of development and progress. It is a primary tool to achieve Vision 2021 and an engine for the growth of distinctive skills and capabilities across the nation. We have always called for creativity in every field: this strategy is a concrete step to implement that vision. These initiatives around innovation will enhance quality of life in the UAE and take our economy to new horizons.”

The strategy works along four parallel tracks, WAM said.

The second track will develop government innovation by institutionalising innovative practices with the support of an integrated system of modern tools. The strategy requires all government entities to reduce spending by 1 percent and to dedicate the savings to research and innovation projects.

The third track will encourage private sector innovation by stimulating companies to establish innovation and scientific research centres, to adopt new technologies, and to develop innovative products and services.

The fourth track will qualify individuals with highly innovative skills by concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including the creation of educational material for schools and universities.

The aim is to establish a national culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through partnerships between the public, private and media sectors.

Sheikh Mohammed added: “Innovation today is driven by effective institutions, strong policies, specialised skills, and an economy where all sectors work together to discover new ways to conduct business. A flexible and creative economy based on a national culture of innovation is the fastest and most sustainable way to reinforce the UAE’s competitiveness on a global level.”

Current annual investment in innovation is worth AED14 billion in the UAE, of which AED7 billion goes to research and development but spending will rise significantly in the years to come, WAM said.

The National Innovation Strategy includes 16 indicators to measure progress. Government-sector indicators include the percentage of innovative ideas and the proportion of budget allocated to innovation. Private-sector indicators include R&D investment and the knowledge profile of the workforce.

Global indicators include an overall measure comparing countries’ innovation capabilities, as well as indicators for the protection of intellectual property, the creation of patents and the availability of scientists and engineers.