The UAE’s First Ever Innovation Week

“Innovation is not an option but a necessity” – said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai as he announced the launch of the nation’s first-ever Innovation Week, that took place last week.

The event forms a central pillar of the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy and was a platform designed to celebrate ideas that advance the citizen experience. The week was inclusive, bringing together educators, innovators, regulators, financers and everyone in between, to engage in workshops and seminars. In itself, it was an innovative idea that stimulated minds and offered fresh perspectives on progress and advancement.

Innovation Week was about more than just dialogue however. What national authorities made clear, is that there is a real commitment to the true potential of an innovation-led economy – an economy that feeds on ground breaking ideas and embraces new methods in the pursuit of progress. A demonstration of this commitment was the announcement of the ‘Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund’ worth Dh2 billion ($544.37 million), which will finance a generation of innovators across various sectors in the UAE and rapidly bring new ideas to market.

And yet, as we discuss the merits of a dedicated pool of funds, how to allocate and prioritise them is the next question we must consider. What the fund highlights is the need for a standardized framework or set of metrics by which we measure and evaluate new ideas. Such a system would refine the process to the most worthy, helping governments and private organizations keep their promise of social betterment through innovation.

Ensuring the right ideas get adequate funding will be critical to the success of the fund, and the national innovation strategy. And while there is no doubt we are all becoming more familiar with the concept of innovation, defining it will be key.

In the words of Apple founder Steve Jobs, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.” We need to make sure those people are getting the government’s full attention.