Dubai SME, the agency of Dubai Economy mandated to develop the small ad medium enterprise (SME) sector, recently convened the first meeting of the Dubai Business Incubator Network (DBIN) of its certified business incubators and accelerators.
The network came into being after the amended law issued in 2016 under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, mandating Dubai SME to establish and develop initiatives and programmes in line with its strategic goals , including the accreditation of business incubators and accelerators.
DBIN aims to further stimulate economic activity in the UAE, particularly in Dubai, by establishing new facilities capable of providing promising investment opportunities that contribute to strengthening the national economy and creating more job opportunities.
The network will act as a reference and catalyst for business incubation programmes in the country, as well as motivate and support the private sector to invest in business incubators and accelerators.
DBIN has set out to support and promote business incubators and accelerators in Dubai through facilitating the exchange of information and practical experiences among them and between their clients and relevant authorities.
The first meeting of DBIN saw member incubators and accelerators presenting their experiences in effective entrepreneurial approach, success stories and pioneering initiatives that enabled hundreds of young people to launch their startups. Unique experiences and best practices among incubators locally and internationally were also highlighted at the meeting.
Mechanisms to strengthen the role of DBIN and scope for participation in Dubai SME initiatives as well as challenges and opportunities ahead for innovative startups and creative entrepreneurs were also discussed at the meeting.
Speaking of the relevance of DBIN, Abdul Basit Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, commented that Dubai already enjoys a reputation as the largest business incubator and preferred destination for the most innovative projects in the region. “Dubai also stands apart in promoting economic development, encouraging investments and supporting startup growth. The infrastructure in Dubai and its willingness to learn from regional and global best practices, along with the focus on stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, will positively reflect on the accreditation programme for incubators and accelerators and their performance.”
Al Janahi also mentioned the role of Dubai Next, a first-of-its-kind digital platform launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, to attract crowdfunding into creative ideas and innovative projects.
Dubai Next, affiliated to Dubai SME, is an integrated digital platform that enables young people of all nationalities in Dubai to present their creative ideas and ambitious projects in order to raise the capital required through crowdfunding. An easily accessible financing and investment option for a large segment of the society and entrepreneurs the platform also provides the ideal choice for students to develop their entrepreneurial ideas.
Those who are able to obtain financing on Dubai Next can incubate their project at the Hamdan Innovation Incubator (HI2) in Dubai SME or any of the 13 certified business incubators in Dubai, which provide a variety of services, packages and events that support entrepreneurs within the appropriate work environment.
“This year will witness a qualitative shift in the concept of business incubators in the country, given the current trend towards creating incubators focusing on specific sectors and project quality. The Expo in Dubai will also contribute to attracting a number of entrepreneurs and startups to join these certified incubators. Potential partnerships and engagement between local incubators and those participating in the Expo will also contribute to developing the network and the transfer of global expertise and experiences,” added Al Janahi.
The accreditation programme for business incubators and accelerators is aligned to thesupport, guidance and follow-up provided by Dubai SME to emerging SMEs in Dubai. The accreditation serves as a starting point for entrepreneurs and startups and connects them to innovative solutions that help them thrive in the local and regional markets while adding value to the economy in Dubai and the UAE.
The Dubai Business Incubator Network currently has 13 specialised business incubators launched and accredited in cooperation with the private sector and educational institutions in Dubai. The accreditation of incubators in educational institutions is aligned to the 50-Year Charter of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which seeks to transform universities into free economic and creative zones to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
The 13 incubators accredited so far serve a number of specialized sectors, including:
Digital Technology and Robotics
Business incubators in this sector focus on the establishment and development of emerging companies in digital technology, in addition to a number of services for novice entrepreneurs in the information technology (IT) sector. Specialised training in basic skills related to the digital industry, such as digital marketing, programming, data science (Big Data), software design and business development is also provided.
Business incubators accredited in the Digital Technology & Robotics sector in Dubai so far include The Co-Dubai; Kind Incubator powered by Astrolabs; Forward - Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT); Ztart-up; and one in the American University in Dubai (AUD)
Business incubators in the design sector provided an integrated platform for creators, designers and entrepreneurs and support them with a package of specialized business development services in addition to business idea development programmes in the fields of interior design, graphic design, furniture, product design and supporting fields such as photography, 3D printing and animation. Re: Urban Studio in Dubai is the first business incubator accredited in the Design sector.
Sustainability in energy, water, building materials, transportation and waste treatment
The Bidayat business incubator in the Sustainable City is the first specialized incubator in this sector. It’s the first fully operational sustainable community in the Middle East, providing a smart ecosystem for creative entrepreneurs who believe in making cities more convenient to live in, and sustainable Project owners and startups in this incubator gain experience and get opportunities to connect with the competent authorities to develop sustainable societies. SMEs in Dubai thus get to participate in the sustainable development process, and also test their green initiatives in the Sustainable City. In addition, the incubator provides opportunities to conduct research and experiments on ideas before applying them, to ensure their effectiveness and success.
The retail business incubators aim to develop innovative brands as well as adopt and invest in Emirati projects in the fields of fashion, jewellery, cosmetics, accessories, perfumes, shoes, and other luxury goods that are designed and made by Emiratis and Arabs. The incubators will help launch these projects and enable them grow and expand regionally and globally. TALG (The Arabian Luxury Group) is the first specialized business incubator in this sector.
Investments and emerging projects
Dubai SME launched a specialised business incubator for innovative British projects in cooperation with the British Centres for Business (BCB) in Dubai. The new incubator, as well as the partnership between Dubai SME and BCB, will contribute to strengthening Dubai as a destination for investment and entrepreneurship, regionally and internationally. It also underlines the attractiveness, competitiveness and advantages Dubai has in its business environment, legislative framework and infrastructure. The new business incubator provides support and expansion for British SMEs pursuing innovations in new and emerging sectors, including information technology, e-commerce, digital economy, digital marketing, operations and logistics, and smart applications.
Incubators in other sectors that support innovation
Incubators are accredited in many other sectors to promote entrepreneurship and innovation as well as to enable creative entrepreneurs transform their ideas into distinguished projects that serve the sustainable development process in Dubai. It contributes to building a knowledge-based and innovation-focussed economy, thus enhancing the emirate's economic position locally and regionally, and facilitating the process of reaching out to a larger segment of young entrepreneurs. The incubators also provide entrepreneurs with the required education and training, and also the tools necessary to establish a successful business in Dubai and expand beyond. The Co-Dubai and Forward - Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) are accredited business incubators in this sector.
A number of business incubators and accelerators have been certified across higher education centres in Dubai in line with the sixth article in the 50 Year Charter of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to transform national and private universities into free economic and creative zones that encourage students to innovate and grow into entrepreneurs. These incubators represent a qualitative initiative towards developing the infrastructure in educational institutions, encouraging young talents to think creatively and innovatively, providing youth with the necessary support at the early stage of their startups, and directing them towards future economic sectors in in line with strategic direction of the UAE. The Higher Colleges of Technology, Amity University, and the American University in Dubai have accredited business incubators already and Dubai SME has received a number of applications from similar institutions.
School-level incubators were launched largely inspired by the ‘Young Entrepreneur’ competition Dubai SME has been conducting during the past 15 years to provide opportunities for the younger generation to engage in the world of entrepreneurship. Schools present societal or school challenges among students and motivate them to find innovative solutions to address them. Furthermore, the schools will run a number of competitions throughout the year to select the best projects, and then nominate them for participation in the ‘Young Entrepreneur’ competition later. GEMS Modern Academy - Nad Al Sheba has the first accredited school-level business incubator in Dubai.
-Diagram showing the sectors of incubators -
Business incubators are distributed in a number of regions in the Emirate of Dubai, the most important of which are: Downtown Dubai - Burj Khalifa - Business Bay - Dubai Design District - Courtyard Al Quoz - Dubai Academic City - The Sustainable City - Nad Al Sheba - Deira - Al Sufouh – Dubai Healthcare City