The UAE is looking to break into the top 20 nations in the Global Innovation Index as it ramps up the use of technology across different sectors, according to a UAE Ministry of Economy official.
"We are trying hard to improve our global ranking. I cannot predict the year or the exact timeline but we will be among the top 20 very soon," Abdullah Alshamsi, the Assistant Undersecretary for Trade Remedies at the UAE Ministry of Economy, told The National.
"Input-wise, such as investments, launching new initiatives and collecting data, we are doing pretty well … but we need to improve our output," said Mr Alshamsi, who is executive director of the team working to improve the UAE's position in the ranking, which is published annually by business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
“There should be tangible and valuable results, clearly seen in the country’s GDP, to propel the ranking,” he added.
The UAE jumped two places in the GII last year, reaching 36th spot out of a total of 129 countries, but was the highest ranked of the Arab countries. It has risen rapidly up the rankings in recent years, climbing from 47th in 2015. Developing a knowledge economy is a key plank of the UAE's Vision 2021 national agenda, which was formulated back in 2010.
The world’s most innovative country in 2019 was Switzerland, followed by Sweden and the US.
The Ministry of Economy, in association with Dubai Customs, is running a five-day International Innovation Forum in Dubai that started on Sunday, bringing different stakeholders from around the emirate under one roof.
Mr Alshamsi said that despite efforts made so far, the UAE needs to push ahead with meeting innovation targets.
“We need to be really aggressive in the adoption of new technologies and innovations in next five years. Here we are not only competing with other countries but also with our own parameters and past records.”
The Ministry of Economy is also working to keep all stakeholders aligned, he said, which is crucial to improving the country's standing.
“We are not working alone … there are more than 12 entities contributing directly to this index,” he noted.
The GII considers 80 different indicators, including the number of patents filed, investment patterns and the creation of new technologies from within a particular country.
The UAE performed well in areas such as government effectiveness, education and infrastructure in last year’s index, which was released in July.
Last month, Dubai set a target of becoming a Dh2 trillion (non-oil) trading hub by 2025. Industry experts said this is achievable by infusing innovation in daily operations.
"Our leadership has set a target to reach Dh2tn trade value in next five years … innovation is the key to achieve this. We cannot reach this milestone without having it [innovation] ingrained in our culture, thinking and daily tasks," Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, director general of Dubai Customs, told The National.
In 2019, Dubai Customs processed 13 million transactions and handled 86 million passengers.
“Innovation in our routine processes is helping us to meet these high numbers and giving us confidence to set much higher benchmarks,” added Mr Musabih.
In an earlier address to the forum, Mr Musaibh said the UAE "has become one of the most interested countries in creativity and innovation" globally.