Dubai SME goes past a milestone in positioning the emirate as global hub of entrepreneurship 

Press release
Published August 3rd, 2022 - 07:16 GMT
Dubai SME goes past a milestone in positioning the emirate as global hub of entrepreneurship 
Launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2002
The Establishment celebrates 20 years of promoting entrepreneurship and attracting innovative business concepts into Dubai
Dubai SME has supported the launch of over 11,000 start-ups and advised over 45,000 entrepreneurs since 2002
Entrepreneurs in Dubai won procurement contracts worth over AED 8.5 billion and received AED 221 million in loans during the past 20 years

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Dubai SME), an agency of the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) in Dubai, has completed 20 years of its journey towards positioning the emirate as the most competitive environment for entrepreneurial ideas and start-ups. Over the last two decades, Dubai SME has created an innovative ecosystem that continues to attract new business concepts, and supported the launch of over 11,000 start-ups in varied sectors, contributing to the diversification, sustainability and resilience of the economy in the UAE.

A pioneering initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2002 to spread the culture of entrepreneurship in Dubai and position the city as the global hub of entrepreneurship, Dubai SME has not only inspired Emiratis to transform their ideas into successful business ventures but also attracted companies and entrepreneurs worldwide looking for the best location to test-bed and nurture innovations. The programmes, institutions and partnerships launched by Dubai SME have enabled it to evolve into a template for attracting talent and investments into new and emerging technologies, industries and services.

More than 45,000 entrepreneurs have benefitted from the advisory services of Dubai SME during the last 20 years while the Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy, the educational arm of Dubai SME, has trained 39,000 people in diverse disciplines of start-up development, thus preparing them for future success in the knowledge-driven economy in the UAE.

Dubai SME has also facilitated start-up loans worth AED 221 million through the Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund over the last 20 years, in addition to procurement contracts worth over AED 8.5 billion for SMEs under a Government Procurement Programme (GPP). 

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of the Department of Economy (DET), commented: “The most significant achievement of Dubai SME is in inspiring people, especially the young and ambitious, to pursue entrepreneurship and empowering them to successfully navigate the challenges of starting a business. The leadership’s focus on ushering in policy reforms and legislations to create more economic opportunities have increased confidence among entrepreneurs as well as businesses and investors supporting them.  A growing number of public and private sector entities in the UAE are working with entrepreneurs, and creating partnerships to support the start-up journey, from an idea to an innovative enterprise and then to a globally competitive business. Today, we see SMEs being a significant presence across varied sectors in Dubai, and adding substantial value and diversity to the economy.”

The SME community, which constitute 99.2 per cent of the total companies in Dubai, also account for 46.4% of the added value and 50.5% of the workforce in the emirate. 

“Agile by nature, SMEs had a remarkable role in the economic resilience and adaptability Dubai continued to demonstrate during the recent pandemic phase. The year 2021 saw 2,031 SMEs being launched with the support of Dubai SME in varied services and sectors. Their flexibility and inclination to innovate, along with the vision and strategic plans to attract talent and investments into Dubai, will see SMEs in a lead role in positioning Dubai as a global hub for business, tourism, entrepreneurship and a digital economy,” added Almarri.

Dubai SME and its affiliate institutions have wide-ranging initiatives and programmes, from identifying entrepreneurial talent and incubating business ideas to extending life-cycle support for start-up growth and expansion.  A growing network of 15 certified business incubators and accelerators in Dubai welcomes everyone with an innovative idea to test-bed their concept and secure the resources required to develop it into a viable project. 

Dubai SME is also the first entity of its kind globally to have developed state-of-the-art fintech solutions for SME financing. Through Beehive (, an innovative technology platform enabling peer-to-peer lending, Dubai SME is linking companies seeking fast and affordable financing to suitable investors. Dubai Next, the first digital crowdfunding platform launched & managed by Dubai SME, has also evolved into an efficient solution for securing funding from backers for start-ups and creative talents, especially students and the youth.

Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, thanked the leadership for the continuous support given to Dubai SME, adding that a major focus for the agency will be on connecting start-ups to new opportunities and partners. 

“The most significant achievement of Dubai SME is in promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and in transforming entrepreneurial creativity into a significant driver of economic development and employment in the UAE. Creative talents in Dubai have the best environment to pursue their dreams and lead innovations in businesses and industries of the future,” said Al Janahi.

“As Dubai turns a new page in its growth Dubai SME is aligning its strategic focus to attracting innovators and investors looking for new opportunities and experiences. Dubai SME will continue to help SMEs enhance their capabilities and embrace digital transformation while also facilitating access to financing and new markets for start-ups,” Al Janahi added.

Major milestones for Dubai SME during the past 20 years:

  • 2021 - Launch of ‘Dubai Next,’ the first official digital crowdfunding platform in Dubai
  • 2020 - First certified business incubator in a free zone opened in Amity University Dubai  
  • 2020 – Financial support package launched for SMEs following COVID-19
  • 2020 – Remote consulting, guidance and training services for entrepreneurs 
  • 2020 - Achieved 7-stars at the Dubai government level for global best practices in to support services for entrepreneurs 
  • 2020 - Launch of Innovation Attraction Programme  -  
  • 2019 – Launched the second edition of the ‘The State of SMEs’ study
  • 2019 – First certified school business incubator opened at GEMS Modern Academy
  • 2019 – Started promoting products and services of Dubai SME members through ‘Hi Dubai’ portal 
  • 2019 – Launched initiative to train inmates of penal institutions 
  • 2018 – Partnership with Zayed University to launch business incubators 
  • 2017 – Launch of ‘RATE’ initiative to classify SMEs based on their performance
  • 2017 - Launched Smart Supplier Programme 
  • 2016 - Launched Business Incubators certification scheme
  • 2016 – Launch of the ‘State of SME Investment Report’ 
  • 2016 – New law issued on the mandate of Dubai SME
  • 2014 - Launch of the Hamdan Innovation Incubator
  • 2013 - Launch of the Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy 
  • 2012 – Launch of the Mohammed bin Rashid Fund for SMEs
  • 2012 –The Mohammed Bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders expanded to cover Arab world initiatives
  • 2011 – ‘Young Entrepreneur Competition’ of Dubai SME wins in the Dubai Government Excellence Programme
  • 2009 – Launch of the official SME definition for Dubai
  • 2005 – ‘Young Entrepreneur Competition’ launched
  • 2005 – Partnership with Global Village to promote UAE entrepreneurs and SMEs
  • 2004 - Government Procurement Programme (GPP) wins in the Dubai Government Excellence Programme 
  • 2003 – The Mohammed Bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders (YBL) launched
  • 2002 - Government Procurement Programme (GPP) launched

For more information about Dubai SME and its development initiatives, visit

Background Information

Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET)

With the ultimate vision of making Dubai the world’s leading commercial centre, investment hub and tourism destination, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) is mandated to support the Government in positioning the emirate as a major hub for global economy and tourism, and in boosting the city’s economic and tourism competitiveness indicators. Under this remit, DET is driving efforts to further enhance Dubai’s diversified, innovative service-based economy to attract top global talent, deliver a world-class business environment and accelerate productivity growth. Additionally, DET is supporting Dubai’s vision to become the world’s best city to live and work in by promoting its diverse destination proposition, unique lifestyle and outstanding quality of life, overall.

DET is the principal authority for the planning, supervision, development and marketing of Dubai’s business and tourism sectors. It is also responsible for the licensing and classification of all types of businesses, including hotels, tour operators and travel agents. The DET portfolio includes Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, Dubai Industries and Exports, Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI) and Dubai SME, as well as Dubai College of Tourism, Dubai Calendar and Dubai Business Events.

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