Saudi Arabia to host global technology event next year

The Leap conference and exhibition will run for three days from February 1

Saudi Arabia will host a new technology conference and exhibition known as Leap, with the inaugural event taking place in February next year.

The event has been backed by a number of government organisations, including the kingdom's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), according to organisers Informa Tech.

“Leap will be the most iconic and seismic tech event for a generation … where East meets West and tech innovation meets investment,” Abdullah Amer Al-Swaha, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said.

He said the event, which starts on February 1, will contribute to the kingdom's goal of boosting the information and communication technology (ICT) sector’s contribution to the kingdom’s gross domestic product by 50 per cent to 50 billion Saudi riyals (Dh48.9bn / $13.3bn) over the next five years.

Overall spending on ICT in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $37 billion (Dh135.8bn) this year, up 2.4 per cent on 2019, according to International Data Corporation figures.

The event, which takes place at the new Riyadh Front Exhibition Centre, will have 14 areas displaying innovations in sectors such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3D printing, smart mobility, unmanned systems, quantum computing, FinTech and 5G.

Part of the event will also be dedicated towards start-ups, with a 'Pitch Stage' allowing new businesses to present their ideas to investors, and a 'Leap Investors Club' featuring venture capitalists, government accelerators and incubators, family officers and angel investors, according to Informa Tech.

Start-ups in the kingdom secured $95 million (Dh348.8m) in funding during the first six months of 2020, more than doubling the amount raised in the first half of 2019, data platform Magnitt said in its Saudi Arabia Venture Capital report last month.

“Leap will be where the Saudi government, sovereign and privately-held wealth funds will purchase pilot technology before anyone anywhere else in the world,” said Carolyn Dawson, managing director of Informa Tech.

“Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf is brimming with many of the most powerful investment funds in the world. Leap will unlock access to these funds to ignite innovation,” Ms Dawson added.

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