Dubai robot maker to triple workforce as it prepares for $37m New York IPO

Micropolis plans to build a new plant that will help the company manufacture more than 350 robots a year

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Micropolis, a Dubai-based manufacturer that specialises in developing autonomous mobile robots, plans to build a new production plant and triple its workforce with the funding it raises from an upcoming New York initial public offering.

Once fully operational in Dubai Production City, the factory will build an average of one robot a day to meet a growing demand from customers, Fareed Aljawhari, Micropolis founder and chief executive, told The National in an interview.

Micropolis has two autonomous robots – a golf cart-sized one called M1 and a smaller model called M2 – which use the same robotic platform that combines mobility, autonomy and advanced AI capabilities.

The team that I have here – they did not come from the likes of Google or Microsoft or Tesla, they came here from local universities
Fareed Aljawhari, founder and chief executive of Micropolis

In 2018, the company teamed up with Dubai Police to develop an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) that uses AI to help with crime prevention.

"They [Dubai Police] can't deploy manned vehicles [in every area] so they can use robots like this to survey an area," Mr Aljawhari said. "A robot by itself cannot do anything so that's why we added the AI layer to it.

"We have software that we developed in-house called Microspot, equipped with five AI engines – facial recognition, behaviour analysis, ANPR [automatic number-plate recognition], criminal logic and suspect matrix.

"It makes the robot drive like a patrol and it thinks like a police officer. It reports suspicious activity and Dubai Police can scan and keep an eye on communities 24 hours a day."

The smaller version of the robot will be trialled in April for six months in one community before possibly being introduced to more areas later this year.

The robot can be used in various industries, such as oil and gas, and for uses including helping to collect rubbish, Mr Aljawhari said.

"We are working with Adnoc with a similar concept," Mr Aljawhari said. "They are using our security robots but we are developing new robots for them for pipe surveillance and monitoring.

"We are working with Saudi Arabia in logistics but using the same AMR and platform. Because we built the technology from scratch, we can develop and customise the robots the way the customer wants it to be."

Micropolis is collaborating with Dubai South and Dubai Customs on a robot project called Remote Inspector that will speed up the clearance process for goods coming from outside the country.

"Dubai South is a free zone which has a lot of logistics and e-commerce customers, like Ikea, Noon and Amazon, and they want to offer their customers technology that can help them do inspections for their goods remotely," Mr Aljawhari said.

"It means they will send the robots to them or the robot will be in the premises to do the inspection work without them having to go to Dubai Customs premises and their inspection facility. It will reduce a lot of costs and time as well."

Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic multibillion-dollar mega city, is looking to employ the security robot it developed with Dubai Police.

"We are also working with them [Neom] in other sectors, such as logistics and utilities," Mr Aljawhari said. "The robots will be able to clean the roads, collect trash, detect maintenance issues in the community.

"We share revenue with the previous customer if we use their design because we make them own the design IP usually so they can profit from it as well."

New York listing

Since 2018, Micropolis has raised $8 million, mainly from overseas investors. The IPO in New York is expected to raise a further $37 million.

It plans to offer 8.2 million shares, estimating a price range between $4 and $5 per share. At the midpoint of the proposed range, the company would command a market value of $172 million.

Mr Aljawhari said the decision to list on the New York Stock Exchange was requested by current investors.

"You have access to large funding worldwide [in New York]," he said. "We want everybody to invest in this. Of course, we believe in the local market but listing in the US just gives us this boost that we really need."

The funding will allow Micropolis to build a new factory to assemble the robots.

"We need to expand our operation," Mr Aljawhari said. "We have a large facility here but it's not enough for production. So our plan is to build the new facility in Production City because the infrastructure is just amazing."

Production will start with about one robot a week but once fully operational, the plant will assemble more than 350 a year, he said.

"Most of the parts will be off the shelf. We pre-manufacture them and we put them in storage because they're all standardised."

The extra finance will also help expand its skilled workforce who have developed the software and the AMR units from scratch.

Employing people who are educated locally is important to Mr Aljawhari, who sees it as key to building the infrastructure for tech and innovation in the UAE.

"The team that I have here – they did not come from the likes of Google or Microsoft or Tesla, they came here from local universities," he said.

Micropolis plans to increase in workforce from its current 50 headcount to "150 to 200 at least" to manage the strong demand, Mr Aljawhari said.

In the next phase of development, he says, Micropolis will look to develop a people-carrier version of the robot.

"They are EVs in nature, it's a robotic EV," he said. "So one day it will be just unmanned vehicles, just to move people.

"Our M1 is built like a Zoox [autonomous vehicle]. It's very similar in size – same technology, same everything. It just depends on the client or the partner we're working with."

Updated: January 09, 2024, 3:00 AM