DIFC and Dubai Future Foundation partner to back AI and blockchain start-ups

The emirate aims to drive innovation in the financial sector, its third-biggest contributor to GDP

The Dubai International Financial Centre. Earlier this week, the DIFC Courts signed an agreement with Dubai FDI to collaborate on exchanging information and research, as well as hosting joint conferences and exhibitions. Image courtesy of DIFC 
Powered by automated translation

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) signed an agreement to support blockchain and Artificial Intelligence-driven start-ups as the emirate seeks to attract advanced technology companies.

The agreement will see the two entities partner on a combined technology acceleration programme that will place start-ups on an "aggressive growth trajectory", the DIFC said in a statement on Saturday.

"By working closely with DIFC, we seek to accelerate business opportunities for the region, attract start-ups and talents, employ innovation and technology to further enhance and generate a robust financial sector and provide the right tools and skills sets to enable a future-ready generation," Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation, said.

Financial services is the third-biggest sector contributing to Dubai's gross domestic product (GDP). The emirate, a financial hub in the Middle East, has particularly focused on attracting and developing financial technology (FinTech) businesses.

Overall, the number of firms operating in DIFC rose 25 per cent in the first half of 2020 as the financial free zone looks to triple its size by 2024.

DIFC attracted 310 new companies in the first half of 2020, bringing the total number of companies based in the free zone to 2,584. The DIFC is now home to more than 200 FinTech companies.

"Our eyes are firmly on the future. We are committed to driving the growth in the finance sector by embracing innovation, technology and training," Arif Amiri, chief executive of the DIFC Authority, said. "Investing in human capital initiatives with the Dubai Future Foundation is incredibly important."

The new agreement will see the DFF promote the DIFC Innovation License to its partners and programme participants.

The agreement also outlines plans to introduce technical training programmes at the DIFC Academy. This includes coding courses such as Full-Stack Web Development and App Development. These will support the DFF's One Million Arab Coders initiative, which was launched in 2017.

DIFC and DFF will also collaborate on research and development programmes with major research and technical institutes.

DFF said DIFC would also be an important part of the Dubai Future District, an area connecting the financial free zone, Emirates Towers and the Dubai World Trade Centre announced alongside a Dh1 billion Future Economy fund in January.