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UAE boosts its innovation standing by 2 ranks to remain among Arab Countries

The UAE maintains its good standing in this year’s edition of the Global Innovation Index (GII) as it recently ranked number one in the Arab World and improved to 36thglobally. The country ranked 24thand 58thon the innovation input and output sub-indices respectively. The results were officially presented in the Indian capital of New Delhi in front of high-level figures with the UAE being represented by His Excellency Dr. Ahmed AlBanna, the country’s ambassador to India. 

The positive positioning across these indices reflects the significant improvements and high performances in pillars such as Human Capital and Research, Infrastructure, Creative Outputs and Institutions. For example, these pillars include increases in indicators such as global R&D companies’ expenditure, government online services and e-participation indices, creative goods exports and ease of starting a business.  

More generally, the Global Innovation Index report annually ranks countries based on their capacity to innovate and, this year’s version of the report measured the performance of 129 countries and economies representing the vast proportion of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The index itself was calculated based on detailed measures of innovation inputs and outputs – including 80 indicators providing insights on the variousareas of innovation, most notably institutions, human capital & research, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge & technology outputs, and creative outputs. The GII is commonly used by corporate and government officials to compare countries by their level of innovation inputs and outputs and the UAE is further working on the development of metrics aimed at measuring innovation outcomes in order to fully capture the economic impact of innovation at both national and regional levels.

The GII is also recognized as one of several key indices under the UAE National Agenda’s ‘Competitive Knowledge-based Economy’ pillar, which is overseen by the Ministry of Economy in partnership with several private and public entities including the Ministry of Education, the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization, the Ministry of Finance, the Securities and Commodities Authority, and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, among others.   

The country is now implementing a strategic roadmap that aims at improving its short-term results in the GII as part of the overall National Agenda while also enhancing long-term innovation results. The objective is to position the UAE as one of the most innovative countries in the world. Some of the initiatives being rolled out centre on (1) the establishment of the UAE as an intellectual property registration hub, (2) the promotion of a unified network aimed at encouraging fundamental research collaboration between universities, private sector, and government, (3) the identification, connection and tracking of impact made by these innovation-based initiatives and (4) the move to bolster innovation financing via enhancements in the venture capital ecosystem. 

His Excellency Sultan Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy, shared that the UAE's position across the Arab World can be attributed to the country’s consistently high performance over the past 4 years, moving 11 position up from 47thin 2015 to 36thin 2019.

H.E. said, "The UAE’s improved performance in the 2019 version of the GII is a testament to the continuous efforts of the country to improve its innovation landscape. These efforts are driven by strong partnerships between innovation players from public, private and academic sectors. Our solid global innovation performance has given us the confidence to further embark on an ambitious innovation program with short-term initiatives to boost our global innovation ranking and longer-term transformational initiatives to become among the top global innovation leaders.  With this in mind, newer initiatives will be rolled out with the chief goal of further expanding fundamental and applied research conducted in the country and linking it to robust financing mechanisms. In addition, the country is looking to enhance the knowledge economy by amplifying the number of Intellectual Property applications and registrations made inside the UAE through the attraction of foreign companies and the introduction of licenses for IP holding companies.” His Excellency added: “Our efforts are aligned with other strategies that were launched by our government such as the National Strategy for Advanced Innovation and the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We constantly aim at boosting the UAE’s innovation ecosystem in order to ensure that the country remains at the forefront of the latest technological advances.”

On the education front, Hussain Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, stated: Innovation constitutes a fundamental pillar for the education sector, as it provides an input upon which quality outputs can be generated; thus contributing to the country's advancement and progress. The Ministry of Education is aligning its efforts with the future plans of the State in order to achieve the targets set for innovation indicators. This, in turn, will lead to enhanced competitiveness in an important and vital sector that is capable of both strengthening the UAE's prosperity and paving the way for its rapid transition towards a sustainable knowledge economy.” H.E. further added: “The Ministry'sfundamental plans to develop the educational system are centered on the achievement of National education indicators, the enhancement of the scientific research scope and the devotion of talent to UAE schools and higher education institutions, thus ensuring that the UAE is positioned as an entrepreneurship and innovation hub. The strengthening of our partnerships with relevant state institutions is based on a collaborative and complementary approach essential for the implementation of National plans aimed at enhancing innovation across various institutions. The benefits of this approach are clearly reflected in the world-class levels of our students in the research and innovation field.” His Excellency stressed: “The support received from our leadership, the detailed planning and the balanced governmental approach are behind these positive results and this remarkable development.” 

The labour component of innovation is of fundamental importance. To this extent, His Excellency Nasser Al Hamli, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization, stressed: "The Ministry is committed to actively contribute to the National efforts and we aim at achieving overall UAE competitiveness and Global Innovation Index targets by implementing and developing policies and programs that attract the world’s most qualified and experienced workers to the labour market. This should increase the proportion of knowledge workers, who are essential for the promotion of innovation.” He added that “Strengthening the capacity of the labour market is a priority that the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation is seeking to achieve in co-operation with its partners, particularly by developing the skills of workers and empowering them, thus ensuring that we will be able to deal with the technological advances and the demands of future jobs.”

Meanwhile, His Excellency Mubarak Rashed Al Mansoori, the UAE Central Bank Governor, highlighted that: "Enabling innovation through a developed financial system is one of our key priorities. Our focus is on ensuring the stability of the financial system along with developing an investment-friendly regulatory framework to enhance access to finance for the private sector and especially for SMEs and entrepreneurs.". 

His Excellency Dr. Ahmed AlBanna, who participated at the official launch of the Global Innovation Index 2019 report, said: “Innovation is a key pillar of the UAE's overall vision, as set by our leadership, and requires the establishment and development of partnerships with various countries and international organizations. The country’s latest results are a direct reflection of the efforts exerted by the State to boost the overall innovation ecosystem and ensure that the UAE becomes one of the most innovative countries in the world.”

Innovation goes hand-in-hand with financing and His Excellency Younis Haji Al Khoori, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance, reiterated that fact: "The availability of adequate financing mechanisms is one of the most important contributors to the establishment of a successful innovation ecosystem at the national level. To this extent, the Ministry of Finance is working alongside the National Agenda team to provide, enhance and sustain these financing mechanisms and to build a National network aimed at supporting fundamental research. The Ministry will continue to work alongside its various partners with the goal of fostering a culture of innovation through the provision of support and financing to National innovators. This goes in line with the vision of our leadership to ensure that innovation drives the achievement of sustainable growth and the enhancement of the UAE’sglobal competitiveness.” 

A robust ICT ecosystem is at the centre of any innovative country, as His Excellency Hamad Obaid Al Mansoor, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority mentioned: “The Telecommunications sector is the driving force behind the progress of various other sectors such as the education and advanced sciences, healthcare and transportation sectors among others; hence, the importance of innovation in the ICT ecosystem. To this extent, the Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority is working to enhance the UAE’s global leadership position in the ICT sector which, in turn, will contribute to a sustainable future for our society and an active participation in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, “Artificial Intelligence” and “Smart Cities” era. With this regard, Emirati minds that interact open-mindedly and trustworthily with global developments and that believe in the importance of innovation and creativity are essential.”

His Excellency Dr. Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director General of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority said, “At the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA), we work closely with our partners from both public and private sectors to closely monitor national and global innovation indicators, published by international originations. International standards and scientific methodologies are followed through our close collaboration with our ecosystem partners. Projects, policy enhancements and initiatives are jointly developed and designed to serve innovation indicators. This commitment to quality and accuracy in the production of data reinforces the strategic importance of the FCSA and the accurate statistics we produce. We constantly aim at supporting the nation’s journey towards the establishment of a culture of innovation and towards the realization of the vision of our wise leadership to become the best country by 2071.”

Finally, the financing efforts exerted by the Ministry of Finance have been complemented by the measures taken by the Securities and Commodities Authority to boost the Venture Capital ecosystem in the UAE. His Excellency Dr. Obaid Al Zaabi, Chief Executive Office of the Securities and Commodities Authority stated that: “The Securities and Commodities Authority’s strategy is mainly focused on activating a legislative framework attractive to foreign direct investment and on providing venture capital financing instruments in the UAE. This is achieved through ongoing improvements to existing regulations with the aim of aligning them with the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business standards as well as other international best practices. SCA also issued regulations for venture capital funds in order to consolidate major UAE investment funds under a regulatory umbrella. It took active part, along with main actors, in regulating the venture capital industry.This framework serves as the cornerstone of the ongoing efforts aimed at building a sustainable innovative economy that supports and finances enterprises, thus generating economic momentum across all sectors. This year, following the implementation of these initiatives, the UAE surpassed all Arab countries in terms of the number and value of venture capital deals and has firmly established itself as a major financial hub in the region.”

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