Malek Al Malek, the managing director of Dubai Internet City, at the launch of the Majid bin Mohammed Innovation Center In5. Delores Johnson / The National
Malek Al Malek, the managing director of Dubai Internet City, at the launch of the Majid bin Mohammed Innovation Center In5. Delores Johnson / The National

High-tech aims go higher

The UAE is already home to some of the world's biggest technology companies - and now it is hoping to grow one of its own with the ability to compete.

Majid bin Mohammed Innovation Centre In5 will be launched in Dubai Internet City (DIC) early next year to support start-ups.

Its vision: to make the UAE the premier destination for information and communications technology (ICT) companies and entrepreneurs.

The centre will be open not only to residents in the Emirates, but anyone in the region or even further afield with the next big - or even slightly more modest - idea.

"We believe this centre will be another milestone in the ICT development in this region," said Malek Al Malek, the managing director of DIC, who will be a board member of in5.

"The centre will be open for any entrepreneur in this region and even globally if they are interested in availing the service it will provide," he announced at the launch of the initiative this week.

One of its main objectives is to support the growth of the IT small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector.

Other aims are: accelerating the establishment of ICT start-ups; fostering entrepreneurs; and encouraging technology innovation.

Its focus will be on the early stages of start-ups, but it will also offer help to other fledgling businesses looking to expand.

Mr Al Malek said incubators had proved important to the economy of the US, where they created 500,000 jobs between 1980 and 2007.

In5's board, which will provide guidance and set the strategy for the centre, will be chaired by Ahmad Julfar, the group chief executive of Etisalat, and include other representatives of industry as well as academia.

"I think the region really needs a lot more support for innovation," said Mohammad Gawdat, a board member and the managing director of emerging markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Google.

There are opportunities for young ICT entrepreneurs in the region to analyse or localise existing technologies, or build the next big invention.

"If you think back to the time when Microsoft invented DOS, the personal computer operating system," said Mr Gawdat. "That wasn't an evolution. It was a total breakthrough, a total change in direction.

"And YouTube: nobody ever thought that video would be suitable for the web in that fashion and … it was much more difficult in the Microsoft days than it was in 2006. I always wondered why nobody in the region came up with the idea of writing YouTube. It's not a very complex piece of code if you think about it."

But with the right coaching and encouragement it may just be possible to develop the next revolutionary technology here in the Middle East.

"My absolute dream is that we can manage to find a revolutionary innovation in the region and hopefully the centre will help with that," said Mr Gawdat.

Entrepreneurs who meet criteria set by the centre will receive help with set-up and logistics, seed funding, coaching and training, in addition to mentoring from experts in the industry. Those who are accepted will also be offered networking opportunities.

"His Highness Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will be the sponsor of this project," said Mr Al Malek.

"The budget for the seed investment will come from him, because he is very keen on pursuing the development of those entrepreneurs and of course there will be other investment from DIC."