Agile nations like UAE can lead the world, says technology expert

Edward Jung, speaking at Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed, believes the US era of dominance in innovation is over

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The UAE can lead a new era of innovation that is sweeping the world after 200 years of American dominance, a technology pioneer and inventor has said.

Edward Jung, a former chief architect with tech giant Microsoft, was speaking on Tuesday at the third session of the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed in a talk titled “How to solve the biggest global challenges through innovation".

Mr Jung, founder of Intellectual Ventures — a company dedicated to investing in inventions — said the days when one country, one company and one industry dominated the field were over and smaller solutions were more important.

He said the world is on the verge of witnessing a huge shift to tackle major issues such as climate change, with the US no longer leading in innovation and technology.

“Innovation is the most important economic activity we can do,” said Mr Jung, at the talk at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Jung, a US-based inventor with about 900 patents worldwide, spanning biomedicine, computing and energy, said America led the world in innovation over the past 200 years because the system respected “exceptional individualism” and in the US this was strongly encouraged and respected.

“It was about certain people who led organisations or laboratories or science with a certain kind of genius that allowed them to be super successful and drive a kind of a competitive environment where they're trying to be the one winner for some problem to completion,” said Mr Jung.

“It was about making one inventor, one lab, one product, one country and one leader successful. And that's why the US dominated it, because the US is good at that. I call this space of 200 years of innovation 'the power of one'.”

Mr Jung at the majlis with Taif Al Amiri, Government communication director at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technologies, on his right. Mr Jung said the world had become very good at working out smaller solutions and this represented a huge opportunity for countries such as the UAE. Rashed Al Mansoori / Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Another reason that the US led in innovation is because it had some of the greatest talent pools in the world because of its immigrant communities, and picked up some of the world's greatest minds. But this is being disrupted as not only can people stay where they are and contribute productively, but many places are much better than they were 50 or 100 years ago, he said.

Mr Jung added that the world had become very good at working out smaller solutions and this represented a huge opportunity for countries such as the UAE.

“So I'm going to bring this all together in something I call the 'power of small',” said Mr Jung. “This transition from power of one to power of many allows all countries to participate. Now in many things, small countries can participate. Anyone can. But more importantly, it gives small countries certain superpowers that actually give them advantages over big countries,” he said.

Mr Jung pointed to the huge challenges facing the world, such as tackling climate change, addressing ageing populations, ensuring access to education and building efficient cities.

The world needs a new model of innovation and a new system of incentives, technology development, finance and research and development to tackle these issues and develop sustainable solutions, he said.

The start-up economy solves targeted problems very ably he noted, adding that a lot of the problems facing us now greatly exceed the abilities of single companies.

“This new system really plays to the strengths of small countries that are agile in policy, and responsible in society. And the UAE could be an exceptional leader in doing that. So let's go solve those problems," said Mr Jung.

“I'm here to really see if the UAE will ignite a million minds and then lead this next revolution in innovation.”

The lectures at the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed are held every Ramadan since 2006 to promote learning and reflection.

Tuesday's talk will be broadcast on the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed YouTube channel, Al Emarat TV and other local TV channels on Thursday, April 21 at 5.50pm.

Updated: April 21, 2022, 5:23 AM