Microsoft and Siemens are among the first dozen companies supporting the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology's new programme to accelerate the digital capabilities of thousands of local manufacturers.
Industry 4.0, announced on Wednesday, aims to increase productivity and the development of innovative products, boosting manufacturing by 30 per cent and adding Dh25 billion ($6.8bn) to the economy by 2031.
“This initiative is a first of its kind in the Middle East and is a cornerstone of the Projects of the 50,” Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, said on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.
The Projects of the 50 and the related Principles of the 50 are part of the government's plan to ensure the UAE economy remains dynamic and robust over the next half a century.
Ms Al Amiri added that harnessing the potential of automation, additive manufacturing and blockchain, among other technologies, will help to lower the carbon footprint of UAE industry, allow small-and medium-sized companies to become “more innovative and inventive” and give UAE consumers a wider array of available products and services.
“In line with our leadership’s vision, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology focuses on increasing the industrial sector’s contribution to the national GDP, enabling economic diversification and transforming to a knowledge-based economy,” Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said.
“As the UAE embarks on the next 50 years, UAE Industry 4.0 will be crucial to the nation’s continued competitiveness on the global stage, and its standing as an incubator of pioneering ideas and new industries.”
Preliminary agreements were signed with the departments of economic development of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman, as well as with 12 multinational companies including Adnoc, Abu Dhabi defence conglomerate Edge, German energy giant Siemens, US tech major Microsoft and UAE aluminium manufacturer Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA).
The dozen company partners will form the ‘Champions 4.0 network’, showcasing applications of Fourth Industrial technology and sharing knowledge and automation packages for small to medium-sized enterprises, of which there are some 13,000 in the industrial sector in the UAE.
To begin, the network will identify, assess and then assist 200 companies ripe for Industry 4.0 transformation.
Automation will decrease costs and carbon emissions, as well as improve worker safety, EGA chief executive Abdulnasser Bin Kalban told The National. He said he looked forward to sharing best practices from the world’s fourth biggest aluminium manufacturer with the wider industrial sector in the UAE.
Ericsson, which has been working in the UAE since the late 1970s, initially on a contract with Etisalat to install landlines for telephones, is now looking at how 5G can help industry.
“Our role will be to show use cases” of 5G to industrial manufacturing companies, Wojciech Bajda, president of Gulf countries at Ericsson, told The National.
He added that there is massive potential in smart industrial farming in Al Ain, with farmers there eager to digitalise, and place Internet of Things sensors to monitor soil, water and weather and then automate planting and harvesting with robotics.
“Our priority is to contribute positively and firmly to making the United Arab Emirates’ industry on the global map. We have a lot of things to bring to this, whether by technology transfer, developing the local talents or increasing the industrial footprint in the country, working with small and medium partners,” Ahmed Khashan, cluster president for Gulf countries at Schneider Electric, told The National.
Helmut von Struve, the chief executive of Siemens UAE and Middle East, said the aim will be to work out what makes sense for each company that takes part in the digitalisation drive, and tailor recommendations to those needs.
He added that much is being learnt at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The site at “Expo is for us a blueprint for future smart cities,” he said, with double the footprint of Monaco.
The Industry 4.0 programme falls under the UAE’s Operation 300Bn initiative, which aims to increase the contribution of industry to national GDP to Dh300bn over the coming decade.