Exponential Thinking in the UAE
Thursday, May 15, 2020
Exponential Thinking to create an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Lessons from across the world. The United Arab Emirates is leading the research, technology, and innovation (SRTI) revolution through a triple helix focus that works to incorporate a multi-stakeholder approach, including government, private sector, and academic strengths. H.E. Hussain, CEO of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises and the Sharjah Research, Technology, and Innovation Park, of the UAE, has been tasked with the development and evolution of the Sharjah region’s innovation measures. The region’s progress both exemplifies the significant growth of the nation over the past 45 years and dictates the necessary sustainable development for this progress to continue for the next 50 years. H.E. Hussain has taken this responsibility, viewing it as a vision to transform Sharjah’s economy. Through concentrating on the quality rather than the number of partnerships, Sharjah has transformed from a space of teaching education to one that encourages the spread of knowledge not solely through instruction, but also through innovative research and practices.
Wanting to move beyond their prosperity from hydrocarbons, UAE exemplifies its value in research by working to shape or “rescale” their nation in light of the successes of other global cities. Described as a need for “exponential thinking,” UAE has centered on six main global trends of change, including logistics, production and design, architecture, digitalization, water technology, and environmental technology. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of these systems in other nations, H.E. Hussain describes the region’s desire to “start from where others ended.” It is through this innovation that the Sharjah project was able to begin and expand to the high-performing nature that it has today.
In looking for opportunities, the project capitalized on partnering in a way that supports the triple helix rather than competing with its participants. The UAE government recognizes that the exploration and direction needed to take Sharjah and UAE to the next level will come over time and through intentional collaboration. H.E. Hussain drew our attention to the vital work looking to rescale organizations and people towards a mindset and, further, culture of innovation, especially during these moments of a global pandemic.
Using the crisis to reconsider supply chains, UAE recognized that they were importing nearly 90 percent of all their produce. After the supply chain disruption following national border closures, the federal government created a mandate around new agricultural technologies and invested 100 million dollars into four specific companies working within this domain. Focusing on the humane approach of seeking food security for all its people, the UAE took advantage of its ability to innovate, which consequently created new opportunities, expanded industries, generated new employment, and increased production. In working with their environment, this triple helix has researched and identified ways to utilize hydroponics to increase their agricultural yields. Subsequently, the UAE recognizes that the COVID-19 virus has and will continue to change much of the world; and therefore, the nation needs to change with it. Doing so with the support of academia, the Sharjah Open Innovation Lab will play an enormous role in these transitions. This space will soon be equipped with significant machinery, which aims to rescale the workforce and labor with the skills that are required to meet the market demands of future industries. Additionally, the nation has launched multiple initiatives over the past two years to rescale the work of women to integrate more women into technological research through international collaborations.
In incorporating the 2,000 individuals holding PhDs in Sharjah throughout these private sectors and government collaborations, the region has leveraged the infrastructure that is already present from the past 45 years of development to create a synergy that H.E. Hussain reports as necessary to spread the culture and mindset of innovation. Through forums and projects, the region has overcome its challenges in relevance as well as legislative and geopolitical constraints and has arrived at a place of gratitude. This space has been vital in allowing this modern nation to recognize the significance of the work that they are doing and that they can do. Sharjah has captured best practices from other cities so that they can build an innovative future informed by evidence-based research, creativity, and attention.
In looking at the regional work in Sharjah and that of the ICSB, Ahmed Osman, President of ICSB, describes the similar synergies with which both groups work in attempting to change the deliverance of knowledge and develop subsequent growth and progress. Sharjah is working on a fascinating SkyWay project, which is completely altering how we view trade and transportation. Being the company’s global innovation center, this project is attractive to the UAE as a sustainable way to link their two ports, which are located on opposite sides of the country, by using next-generation technology. This project will exponentially increase the production and manufacturing sector in Sharjah, which will then change employment and GDP.
It is when cities, regions, and nations recognize that they are part of a greater global ecosystem that they can truly begin to curate their identity as a significant player in current and future sustainable development. Intentional innovation will have a place in the future world, just as it does in this one now. Seen time and time again, the regions and businesses that are not only surviving but instead capturing opportunities and thriving in this crisis moment are those that are seeing with the eyes of possibility. It is these fundamentals of entrepreneurship that are so clearly guiding us through this moment of uncertainty. Now it is up to us to choose to follow them.