District 2020, the innovation ecosystem and future of Expo 2020 Dubai, has signed strategic partnerships with Dubai SME and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) to support its global entrepreneur programme, Scale2Dubai.
In line with Dubai and the UAE’s proactive approach to supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the important role they play in bolstering the country’s resilient economy, both organisations will provide District 2020 with a pipeline of high-potential start-ups and small businesses by helping eligible companies join Scale2Dubai. They will also provide the start-ups and small businesses with the guidance, connections and funding they need to continue their growth as part of the Scale2Dubai programme.
Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “These milestone agreements with Dubai SME and MBRIF will further bolster the continued growth of the UAE’s start-up ecosystem and contribute to a stronger and resurgent economic environment.
“The advance towards a more connected future continues to gain pace, and new opportunities will emerge from the current set of global challenges that SMEs and start-ups currently face. Through the combined efforts of partnerships with both these organisations, Scale2Dubai and our wider District 2020 ecosystem support a crucial sector of the UAE economy and complement other accelerators and incubators around the country.”
Expo 2020, which will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, will showcase the best examples of collaboration, innovation and cooperation from around the world and help reinvigorate the global economy as it gathers some of the greatest minds from around the world to seek solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time.
District 2020, with a mandate to support industry growth, will evolve over a nine-month transition period after the event ends, during which more than 80 per cent of Expo’s built environment will be repurposed. It will transition into a mixed-use community and innovation ecosystem that will contribute to Dubai’s position as a leading innovation hub. It will also carry forward Expo 2020’s mission of stimulating business opportunities and continue to support start-ups and SMEs that are integral to the UAE economy.
The new agreements mark an important step towards District 2020’s vision for a curated innovation ecosystem. The partnerships will enable start-ups and small businesses to be part of the Scale2Dubai programme and access the District 2020 platform from which they can expand locally and internationally, while also offering them the opportunity to connect with large enterprises and receive access to funding and other growth enablers.
HE Abdul Baset Al-Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, commented: “Since its launch in 2002, Dubai SME has launched several programmes and initiatives to support entrepreneurs and promote the innovation ecosystem in the UAE. As we are an institution dedicated to supporting the establishment and development of innovative start-ups, our vision closely aligns with that of District 2020.
Al-Janahi added: "We will work on qualifying innovative national projects from the members of our Hamdan Innovation Incubator as well as from the different countries participating in our ‘Innovation Attraction Programme,’ to strengthen District 2020 as a platform for start-ups to grow regionally and access international markets."
Launched in 2016 by the UAE Ministry of Finance, the MBRIF initiative was designed to support innovation in the UAE while elevating the growth potential of inventive start-ups already shaping the future of the UAE’s economy.
Fatima Yousif Al Naqbi, Chief Innovation Officer at the Ministry of Finance, said: “We recognise just how influential start-ups and small businesses are in sparking innovation among an economy. Fledgling businesses with an eagerness to scale up are also a key source of job creation. That’s why we’re determined to provide financing solutions supporting local and international start-ups and small businesses looking to grow in a challenging and competitive environment. Joining an innovation ecosystem such as District 2020 will expedite the progress of these businesses, encourage collaborative innovation across industries, and drive up competition in the wider economy.”
Successful applicants to the Scale2Dubai programme can expect benefits such as two years’ free working space, support in visa and business set-up, two years’ subsidised urban living and access to funding. Additionally, District 2020 will also offer an unrivalled physical and digital infrastructure, a strategic geographic location, and a unique work and living ecosystem.
The programme builds on Expo 2020 Dubai’s aim to support the SME and start-up sector, a vital sector of the UAE’s economy. As of the end of March 2020, Expo 2020 had awarded more than AED 4.6 billion to SMEs. SMEs account for nearly 50 per cent of all businesses registered with Expo 2020, and 56 per cent of all Expo contracts have been awarded to the sector.
Scale2Dubai is currently accepting expressions of interest in the programme through the District 2020 website: www.district2020.ae. The application and short list process will follow in 2021, with successful applicants announced during Expo 2020 Dubai. Those chosen to be part of the programme will be able to move into their workspaces at District 2020 once it opens, shortly after Expo 2020 ends.