Dubai Internet City open to building more specialised incubators for start-ups

Potential additions to the in5 portfolio could include e-commerce, the metaverse, blockchain and artificial intelligence

Ammar Al Malik, executive vice president for commercial at Dubai Internet City parent Tecom Group, at Gitex Global. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Dubai Internet City is open to the idea of building more specialised incubators as it seeks to further support the growth of the emirate's start-up community, its top executive has said.

The potential additions to the existing innovation centres will help budding companies gain market access, Ammar Al Malik told The National.

DIC is under the umbrella of Tecom Group, whose start-up enabler platform, in5, operates three innovation centres – in5 Tech at DIC, in5 Media at Dubai Production City and in5 Design at Dubai Design District.

The newest vertical, in5 Science, was launched in June in collaboration with Dubai Science Park and is dedicated to life, energy and environment sciences, which underlines Dubai's efforts for sustainability in the lead-up to the Cop28 climate change conference to be hosted by the emirate next month.

Tecom Group, the operator of business districts in Dubai, launched the in5 start-up incubator in 2013.

Potential additions to in5's portfolio could include e-commerce, the metaverse, blockchain and artificial intelligence, Mr Al Malik said on the sidelines of the Gitex Global technology conference in Dubai.

“Most of the companies that we deal with already have plans set for sustainability. A lot of our clients, within their portfolio, pursue certifications … we're also working with a lot of these start-ups that are being attracted to this field as well,” he said.

Start-ups across the in5 platform number more than 850 and have so far raised nearly Dh3 billion ($817 million) in funding since its launch in 2013, DIC data shows.

“Our growth and support for start-ups is growing … our main objective is to solidify Dubai as the main hub for both larger corporations and the right ecosystem for start-ups as well,” he said.

During the Gitex event, DIC signed a partnership agreement with German Entrepreneurship, adding to DIC's capabilities of boosting the start-up and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the UAE and overseas.

The agreement will help German start-ups to enter the UAE and the wider Middle East, while also being invited to establish their bases at DIC.

“We try to attract the largest companies from around the world and from the region to be based here,” Mr Al Malik said.

Worldwide, start-ups are booming as they take on the challenges of developing solutions for an increasingly digital world in sectors such as retail, services and commerce.

They have become a key pillar in the UAE's programme to build its digital economy: developing start-ups’ contribution to the economy will help achieve the target of doubling the UAE's gross domestic product by 2031, Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, said in September.

Earlier this month, the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy formally launched Business in Dubai, a new platform aimed at attracting and supporting digital-focused start-ups.

Last year, the Ministry of Economy unveiled its updated Entrepreneurial Nation programme, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and start-ups by 2030.

The Emirates also aims to be home to 20 unicorns – start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above – by 2031, double the number initially planned.

“New technologies always come in and we focus on it. We continuously adapt in order to attract different technologies in different areas,” Mr Al Malik said.

“Our priorities always lie with the government, and what will do good for citizens and the economy.”

AI has big potential, given the sudden rise of its popularity stemming from the emergence of generative AI made popular by Microsoft-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT, the conversational platform.

“It is our role to attract the talent and companies that are necessary to support these kinds of technologies,” Mr Al Malik said.

“We see that AI is designed to make life easier for people and anything that supports it, which we're happy to see.”

Updated: October 21, 2023, 4:54 AM