The UAE is at the forefront of leading the GCC region in the creation of an entrepreneurial innovation amongst all members of the society towards economic growth and development. This was among the main highlights during the opening sessions of the Second Abu Dhabi Innovation Forum held at Fairmont Bab Al Bahar, presented by Abu Dhabi University (ADU) and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.
The two-day forum examined ways to address the growing need to undertake innovation within the SME and the private sector in the region. The forum opened in the presence of government officials and local industry leaders led by His Excellency Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water; His Excellency Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA); Dr. Ahmed Khalil Al Mutawa, Chief Executive Officer, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development; and Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer, du. In his speech about connecting innovation to economic development, Dr. Al Mutawa discussed how Khalifa Fund is building an enabling environment for the SMEs through research and policy dialogue and development of business and technology incubators. Khalifa Fund has also several partnerships with leading academic institutions in the country. "Globally, innovation is recognised as the driving force toward lasting sustainable prosperity in the coming decades. For the country, innovation is a source of increasing wealth in the economy. To business, innovation can increase productivity through improving quality, efficiency, and production," said Al Mutawa. "What is emerging is a global innovation economy that both opens up new opportunities for prosperity and raises stakes for participation. What is important to emphasise that the global innovation economy is primarily driven by ideas and is different than the industrial economy of the past which means that today economies must be wellsprings of ideas that drive innovation in the global marketplace," Al Mutawa added. Khalifa Fund is also empowering potential innovators and entrepreneurs as well as providing access to funding through basic financing programmes and direct investment fund. Tasnea, a new industrial scheme programme, was also established by Khalifa Fund, which hopes to stimulate the industrial innovative projects in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, His Excellency Al Ghanim presented TRA's ICT Fund and how it has fostered and developed innovation and creativity within the country's ICT sector. "The Fund is committed to financing and nurturing projects related to Research, Education and Entrepreneurship. Organisations and individuals undertaking projects that would develop the ICT sector of the UAE will be funded in accordance with the nature of the applicant," Al Ghanim added. The forum tackled the latest innovative strategies based on the personal experiences and best practices of the global and regional speakers. Alexander Blass, Top Innovator of the Year Award Grand Prize Winner, shared innovative tactics on how to thrive in challenging times. "In the present day, innovation can be found throughout the UAE, beginning with its very foundation and existence. Due to the prescient vision of its revered founder His Highness Sheikh Zayed—who approached six other rulers to form this nation nearly forty years ago—the UAE continues this wonderful legacy of innovation by combining visions for the future while embracing the rich heritage of its past," Blass said. Blass continued, "True innovation improves the human experience. As innovators and entrepreneurs, you have the ability to change lives with your endeavours. Make sure your innovations do something positive for society, even if on a small scale. Make someone's life a little easier, or at least put a smile on their face. Besides being the right thing to do and making you feel great, it is also good for business. If you improve the human experience, you will always have a market for your products or services." The forum also highlighted Du's innovative ideas for a digital ecosystem. Featured global innovators at the forum were Matt Kingdon, Chairman, Co-Founder and Chief Enthusiast, ?What If! The Innovation Company, who discussed how to deliver on the promise of innovation; and Wilf Dinnick, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, OpenFile, who tackled media innovation using open source news gathering with OpenFile. Other regional and local presenters included Sami Issa, Executive Director leading the Abu Dhabi Ecosystem Development Unit of ATIC; Samer Abu Ltaif, General Manager, Microsoft Gulf; and Engineer Osama Ghanim, Chief Executive Officer, Innovabia. During the latter part of the forum, a question and answer panel discussion was led by Ibrahim Al Mansoori, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Dr. Abdalla Alnajjar, President of the Arab Science & Technology Foundation; Jeremy Foster, Head of Government and Industry Relations, Region Middle East and Africa, Ericsson; and Kamal Dimachkie, Managing Director of Leo Burnett Dubai, Kuwait and Lower Gulf. The panel examined the ways to measure results of innovation from a regional context, whether to focus more on Innovation Output Metrics as opposed to input. The Second Abu Dhabi Innovation Forum, organised by Aim Events, the events management group of ADU, is held in association with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). The forum is also sponsored by Microsoft and Dubai Knowledge Village and the SME Advisor Middle East as the media partner.