Dubai Science Park, the region’s first science-focused business district, has seen the number of startups and SMEs in its community reach 40 per cent as an entrepreneurship drive strengthens the UAE’s position as an innovation hub.
More than four in 10 companies in the region’s biotech capital – which is home to global pharmaceutical and medical giants such as GE Healthcare, Pfizer and Bayer – are small or medium enterprises working on everything from telemedicine to circular economy initiatives.
With its ample office and laboratory space, world-class infrastructure and vibrant community, the integrated ecosystem is conducive to creativity and innovation. It provides an attractive environment for scientifically-minded entrepreneurs to scale up promising ventures in close proximity to some of the world’s biggest biotech and medical companies.
Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, Managing Director of Dubai Science Park, said: “When startups innovate, they accelerate economic growth and create new jobs. At Dubai Science Park, we help shape a more sustainable and self-sufficient future that maximises the use of homegrown resources and talent in line with the UAE’s vision. As such, we are proud to see that four in 10 companies in our business district are startups or SMEs. Digital transformation has opened new opportunities for them to enter the health sector, and we are here to assist them every step of the way – from an easy and convenient setup process to establishing a base in one of our wide selection of spaces designed with the needs of the scientific community in mind, all the way to growing and expanding their businesses.”
A keen supporter of the UAE’s transition to the circular economy, DGrade specialises in recycling plastic bottles and converting them into yarn to manufacture over 200 types of fabrics. Using its trademarked Greenspun technology, the company washes, shreds and melts down plastic bottles into a fibre that is spun into apparel, diverting plastic away from landfill. DGrade works with businesses such as Unilever and Coca-Cola as well as events like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to collect plastic waste, which then gets converted into material for uniforms and sold back to the companies. DGrade also makes reusable face masks, coffee cups, jackets and bags from plastic waste.
Among the startups that have found their feet in the business district is Ehfaaz, a hi-tech company that aspires to revolutionise the recycling landscape by using food and FMCG waste to produce organic fertiliser and cleaning products. Owing to its mix of highly skilled labour and state-of-the-art automation, it has the annual capacity to convert more than 1,000 tonnes of waste into high-value compost that is sold to farms, landscaping companies and sports centres, providing an environment-friendly as well as profitable alternative to burying or burning waste.
Another star startup is Handasiyah, the supplier of water- and electricity-saving cooling and water filtration systems to renewable energy, healthcare, hospitality, retail and residential projects, including the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Burjeel Medical City. The company is currently gearing up for expansion within the wider GCC region.
Startups are the growth engine of any economy. According to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre, the SME sector contributed 53 per cent to the UAE’s GDP, represented more than 94 per cent of the total number of companies operating in the country and provided jobs for more than 86 per cent of the private sector’s workforce in 2019.
The UAE ranks first regionally and fourth worldwide in the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2020, outperforming leading economies such as the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, EU countries, China, Japan and South Korea. In terms of individual indicators, the UAE excelled in the government’s response to the COVID-19 lockdown and its impact on the entrepreneurial sector, earning second place.
Established in 2005 to diversify the UAE’s economy and accelerate the development of the biotechnology industry, Dubai Science Park is a holistic business district focused on healthcare, energy and the environment. It is home to more than 400 companies with over 4,000 employees.