There can be no doubt of the great potential for start-ups in the UAE. This year, The National acknowledged this by launching a #UAEinnovators campaign. The series celebrates entrepreneurs who have come up with fresh ideas and have the energy, drive and, crucially, the courage, to start their own business.
In our news pages, we regularly highlight inspiring stories about Emiratis moved to make unconventional career choices. Consider the increasing number of women who are moving into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). Many of them go on to specialise in cutting-edge fields such as robotics. Last year's UAE Innovation Challenge, which brought together almost a hundred college students from across the country, demonstrated that there are many young people who want to apply what they learnt in the classroom to the marketplace and the factory. They wanted to create new products and services. They wanted to start something up.
This is good news, of course, but here’s the caveat. Good ideas need help if they are to be transformed into commercial success stories. As we have argued before, investment in small and medium sized businesses and in start-ups makes strategic sense. The UAE has been working hard to move away from its reliance on oil and gas. A start-up culture will help enormously, complementing large-scale industrial enterprises, such as the aeronautics company Strata. It will also help to create highly-skilled private sector jobs that can compete with the public sector in terms of pay. As UAE University economics professor Fernando Zanella recently pointed out in our news story, this will push forward the Emiratisation of the private sector.
It is also important to continue to invest in Stem education. The government already offers grants for Emiratis to study abroad, but Stem subjects must also be taught at a higher level. Locally produced fashion and food items are available here. In the future, perhaps we might see “Made in the UAE” labels on robots and other hi-tech devices. The UAE has both the human and financial resources to incubate start-ups and small businesses. We should do so, knowing that though there will be some failures along the way, mostly, the outlook is sunny.