District 2020 to host 85 start-ups as Expo site transforms with new tenants

New businesses will be supported by Scale2Dubai entrepreneurship programme

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District 2020, the legacy site of Expo 2020 Dubai, will welcome 85 start-ups and small businesses when it opens to its first business tenants in the fourth quarter of this year after the mega trade fair ends on March 31.

The start-ups are being onboarded as part of District 2020's global entrepreneurship programme called Scale2Dubai, a statement on Thursday said.

“District 2020 seeks to play a role in enabling regional and global start-ups to scale up within Dubai, providing an ideal launchpad and gateway to access the Middle East and North Africa region,” it said.

“By enabling start-ups and small businesses through its Scale2Dubai programme, District 2020 builds on Expo 2020's efforts to fund and empower innovating budding businesses with the potential to create long-term positive economic and social impacts.”

Up to 80 per cent of the structures on the 4.38-square-kilometre Expo 2020 Dubai site will be reworked to create a mixed-use development and a hub for global tech innovation when the event ends. It will be home to government institutions, Fortune 500 companies and venture capital firms, among others.

The UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, has taken various steps to encourage entrepreneurship and boost innovation under its economic diversification strategy.

About 95 per cent of the country’s firms are SMEs or start-ups, employing 42 per cent of UAE workers and accounting for more than 40 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Last year, the country unveiled the Entrepreneurial Nation initiative, the goal of which is to make the Emirates home to 20 unicorns — a term referring to start-ups valued at more than $1bn — by 2031, as well as to attract and expand small and medium enterprises.

The first 85 businesses chosen to be part of the Scale2Dubai programme are from 27 countries and were selected from 628 shortlisted applications, according to the statement. Overall, the programme received 3,200 applications from 129 countries.

“Only 50 per cent of start-ups make it to their fifth year, so we are proud to have designed a programme that supports them on this journey and eagerly look forward to welcoming Cohort 1 to District 2020 during fourth-quarter of this year,” Tala Al Ansari, director of the innovation ecosystem and Scale2Dubai, said.

“We plan to host a new cohort every year at District 2020 and look forward to our second cohort moving in by April 2023.”

District 2020s anchor tenants DP World, China’s Terminus Technologies, Siemens and Siemens Energy will also collaborate with the enterprises that will come through Scale2Dubai, the statement said.

Updated: March 24, 2022, 2:09 PM