Dubai Airshow 2021: Strata to expand into advanced manufacturing from robotics to AI

Exclusive: The Abu Dhabi-based company's new strategy will be revealed early next year, CEO says

AL AIN , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 2 – 2018 :- Ismail Ali Mohammed Abdulla , Chief Executive Officer explaining about the manufacturing of parts for Airbus and Boeing at the Strata Manufacturing facility in Al Ain. ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For News. Story by John Dennehy
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Strata, Mubadala Investment Company’s aerospace unit, has said it plans to expand into advanced manufacturing technology, to attract new companies to the UAE, create jobs and draw highly skilled talent.

The idea is to use advanced technology such as robotics and AI to develop local manufacturing industries, Ismail Abdulla, chief executive of Strata, told The National at the Dubai Airshow on Tuesday.

Details of the company's new strategy, part of efforts to diversify beyond its aerospace expertise, will be revealed early next year, he said.

"From a strategy perspective, we have been given a new mandate to look at advanced manufacturing and this aligns with what the UAE government wants to do in terms of building a knowledge-based economy and aligns with what the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology wants to do in terms of increasing the contribution of manufacturing to the GDP," Mr Abdulla said.

Strata's aim to develop advanced manufacturing technology is in line with the UAE's strategy to double its industrial sector's contribution to national gross domestic product to Dh300 billion ($81.67bn) by 2031 from Dh133bn currently.

"We are going to look at verticals beyond aerospace, we are in discussion and we're developing our new strategy right now, which will hopefully be announced early next year," Mr Abdulla said.

Healthcare, automation and digitalisation will be among the new verticals under consideration.

"This means using the Fourth Industrial Revolution to enhance the performance of a number industries in the UAE," he said.

"Robotics, AI and connectivity are the three key sectors for 4IR. What we want to do is scan the local market and look at industries where there is a heavy dependence on low-skilled jobs and see if there's an opportunity to introduce robotics and take these industries into the 4IR."

Benefits will include establishing new specialties within the UAE economy, providing high-skill jobs for Emiratis, attracting more companies to carry out their activities from the Emirates and offering SMEs new opportunities to work with Strata within these areas, he said.

Strata will also "double down" on its aerospace activities, according to Mr Abdulla.

The Mubadala unit, which already has six work packages with Swiss plane maker Pilatus Aircraft, will announce four more work packages with the company during the Dubai Airshow to supply composite parts for their twin-engine business jets, Mr Abdulla said.

"During the pandemic, we have seen that business jet demand actually increased, which supported us to navigate through the most difficult time," he said.

Strata is also currently in discussions with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre for more contracts after it delivered the first shipset of satellite parts, with the aim of becoming their strategic partner on the job, he said.

Strata expects to close the year with revenue of $80 million to $100m, similar to the levels of 2020, before recording higher levels next year as the industry continues to recover, Mr Abdulla said.

Set up by Mubadala in Al Ain a decade ago to position the UAE in the global aerospace supply chain, Strata has billion-dollar contracts with Boeing, Airbus, Leonardo in Italy and Pilatus Aircraft in Switzerland.

It is currently in discussions at different levels with various other original equipment manufacturers to explore opportunities, Mr Abdulla said.

Strata, which makes composite parts on wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 777X and the 787 Dreamliner, is continuing to seek opportunities for work on narrow body jets, he said.

The company has an Emiratisation rate of 46 per cent. Nine out of 10 Emirati workers are women and Strata is working with specialised centres to hire more people of determination.

Since it began operations in 2010, the company has exported 86,000 plane parts.

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Updated: November 16, 2021, 3:01 PM