UAE economy favourably poised for revolution of digital manufacturing

This transformation is emerging out of the new age of information technology. And it is an area in which the UAE is strongly positioned to be a global front runner.

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The first Industrial Revolution was marked by the cotton mill and the mechanisation of the textile industry in Britain. The next transformative era came in the early 20th century with electricity, the steam engine and moving assembly lines. The modern UAE economy flourished during the third industrial revolution with the emergence of oil and other fossil fuels driving the industrial way of life.

Today, as the world shifts beyond the fossil fuel era, we are seeing the early stages of a fourth industrial revolution: Digital manufacturing. 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars are all hallmarks.

This transformation is emerging out of the new age of information technology. And it is an area in which the UAE is strongly positioned to be a global front-runner. In fact, we are already leading the way in many respects. What we need now are robust global dialogues about how this will effect us all and how we can shape our future.

Last week, at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2015, hosted in Abu Dhabi, more than 900 thought leaders from more than 60 countries gathered to discuss the most critical global, regional and industry challenges we face today. This summit featured a workshop on The Future of Manufacturing, to help shape the programme of the inaugural Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) to be held in Abu Dhabi next year. GMIS is a new joint initiative between the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the UAE Ministry of Economy to shine a spotlight on the next major transformations, disruptions and policy implications faced as a result of this new digital manufacturing paradigm.

GMIS establishes an innovative and enduring platform for discussion, learning and action. It will support the advanced manufacturing and industrial transformation of the 21st century with a vision of bringing the public and private sectors together with civil society to encourage greater investment in manufacturing capabilities, drive innovation and promote skills-based development worldwide.

The UAE’s role in GMIS is aligned with the country’s economic diversification plan. Under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, this country has dramatically reduced its dependence on hydrocarbons.

And we expect this industrial revolution to be a powerful catalyst for the continued diversification of the UAE economy. Today manufacturing contributes up to 14 per cent to the UAE economy. We believe that the industrial sector has immense potential to achieve sustained growth.

The UAE is supporting the development of the manufacturing sector with investment in education, strong global partnerships and creation of clear national policies that promote sustainable growth. According to the WEF, the manufacturing sector has one of the highest multiplier effects on an economy and is a major driver of knowledge building and job creation.

The UAE has a clear strategy to promote further development of key manufacturing sectors. We are strategically investing in the creation of industrial clusters that attract foreign investment while fostering entrepreneurial business development opportunities for small and medium enterprises to fill important roles in a fully integrated and locally owned manufacturing supply chain. The success of this cluster development model can already be seen in sectors such as aerospace, renewable energy and aluminium.

Here at home, a flourishing manufacturing sector will play a key role in the economy of the future. And our pioneering role in GMIS will best position us to lead this fourth industrial revolution and stay at the forefront of developing a world-class 21st century manufacturing base that will serve as a model for creating sustainable economies and inclusive societies across the globe.

Badr Al Olama is the CEO of Strata and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on the Future of Manufacturing.

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