Middle East states must embrace manufacturing as a central economic driver and form innovation-led strategies to diversify their economies, a top industry leader has said.
Innovation and manufacturing, together with a strong, demand-driven market strategy will help support the future growth of the Middle East’s industry,  said James Fitterling, executive vice president, Dow Chemical. 
Fitterling presented the keynote speech at the 8th Annual Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GPCA)  Forum in Dubai. The forum hosted more than 1,700 industry professionals to discuss the trends and innovations that are leading the industry in the region.
“To move ahead and find its ideal place in the global value chain, the region must focus on innovation,” Fitterling said. “We at Dow believe the future belongs to those who can provide innovative solutions to a world looking for better answers to some of our most vexing problems. It is about adapting and directing the region’s emerging manufacturing economy to what the world wants and needs. In short, it is about using a market-first mentality to dictate our investments and growth.”
Fitterling cited Dow’s joint venture with Saudi Aramco, Sadara Chemical Company (Sadara), as an example of this market-led approach. The new Sadara complex, currently under construction in Saudi Arabia, will represent the largest petrochemical facility ever built in one single phase and employ around 7,000 people. It will produce 3.2 million tonnes of performance, value-added chemicals and plastics, a supply that will help to alleviate the growing demand from the emerging Asian markets, as well as across the Middle East and Africa.
Sadara  is also a strong example of another key factor that Fitterling cites as vital to economic growth and sustainability in the region: public-private partnerships. Bringing together the influence and facilitation powers of public entities, together with the niche expertise and experience of private enterprises, these collaborations can work to deliver mutually beneficial goals that impact at an economic, environmental and social level. Fitterling concluded: “All of us can take steps now to embrace manufacturing, adopt a more market-driven mentality and usher in a new era of public-private partnerships. Together these will drive the region’s economy – and our industry – forward. They will spur real technical innovation at home. They will attract investments from abroad. And they will help create the domestic markets right here in the Middle East.”