How Dubai’s new R&D program will strengthen UAE’s manufacturing sector

In an age defined by rapid technological advancement and data galore, innovation is the renewable power to sustainable growth and longevity. The manufacturing industry is currently defined by the 4th Industrial Revolution with experts already picking up the crescendo of a 5th Industrial Revolution on its way.

As one of the region’s largest industrial hubs, Dubai Industrial City has been a staunch advocate of businesses adopting advanced manufacturing practices and technologies. The potential of 4IR technologies in tackling major global challenges, including cost efficiency, climate change and food security, is immense and the businesses’ advantages match the investment.

The R&D (research and development) program launched this September by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, sets a roadmap that will not only achieve a futuristic knowledge-based economy but will strengthen Dubai as a globally competitive manufacturing destination with innovation at its heart.

Innovation in action
Predictive data, virtual reality, smart factories, AI-driven inventory management, robotics, and assembly line automation are allowing businesses to become increasingly adaptive and responsive. Whether it’s changing customer preferences, global crises, demand uncertainties, or supply chain disruptions, innovation is allowing manufacturers to become more agile, customer-focused and crisis resilient.

We’re not talking pipe dreams either – a research collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and McKinsey called the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) is successfully transforming 103 factories using Industry 4.0.

Nearly 60 per cent of sites are in the advanced industry phase and making notable strides across KPIs such as sustainability, productivity, and speed to market.

An increasing number of brands in our district are employing advanced manufacturing technologies, an undertaking made easier with access to fully functional industrial infrastructure and power. Unilever uses state-of-the-art technology and modular design for faster, shorter and highly responsive production lines that cut lead time to market by 80 per cent. M Glory Group is constructing an electric vehicle manufacturing facility with 4IR technologies and techniques, including a welding line, a dyeing line and a final assembly line using the latest robots, to produce up to 55,000 electric vehicles per year. Real-time examples of successful innovation are amongst us already. Embedding proactivity in the roadmap ahead is the crux of sustainable growth.

An industry in beta
While R&D is built into Operation 300bn to increase the efficiency and sustainability of production cycles and supply chains, a more comprehensive foundation for R&D will benefit diverse industrial sub-sectors, from agriculture and foodstuff manufacturing to pharmaceuticals.

From advanced medical equipment to cost-effective prevention, detection and treating illnesses to hydroponic farming that meets the dietary needs of a growing global population, the manufacturing and production industry are in direct line of impact.

Dubai provides a fertile ground for businesses looking to expand their manufacturing operations and global reach, reinsured by a favorable business climate, 100 per cent foreign ownership laws and added benefits such as attractive energy and gas tariffs as part of Operation 300bn and Make it in the Emirates. Public-private partnerships are further enriching the landscape for global manufacturers, such as our strategic agreement with Emirates Development Bank to provide innovative financing and banking solutions to SMEs.

We also partnered with the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT) to further enhance the UAE’s industrial sector by enabling Industry 4.0, attracting foreign investors and facilitating decarbonisation. It is as part of these efforts that we will join MoIAT at the upcoming Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to promote Dubai’s industrial ecosystem on an international platform.

Dubai’s strategic location as a gateway to the MENASA region is a significant advantage for foreign investors and businesses. Our comprehensive transport network covering land, sea, air and soon Etihad Rail is a boon for brands expanding and safeguarding diverse export routes. Customers like Standard Carpet, Al Baraka and Anorka are exporting to a wide web of countries, as far-reaching as Europe and the Americas, and using advanced technology to meet the demand of their growing audiences.

Producing sustainably
Historically, the manufacturing and production industries have been significant contributors to global greenhouse gases. As environmentally conscious consumers grow in numbers and expect transparency and accountability from brands across the supply chain, the pressure is on for businesses to start taking their environmental impact seriously.

By tapping into the economic and partnership opportunities catalyzed by the R&D programme, businesses can leverage technology to enhance operations and product development while doing their part to promote sustainability.

Advanced technologies are already allowing for more transparency, reducing wastage and improving decision-making. For example, Sokovo’s upcoming vertical farm will include a retractable sunroof to maximize natural light and reduce electricity consumption while cutting-edge processing and sorting equipment will enable an efficient farm-to-fork delivery system. Such planning is vital to building and scaling resilient production systems that give brands a competitive edge while reducing environmental impact.

R&D not only secures our net-zero future but will also implant a culture of innovation into the industry’s ethos. Such labor now can help businesses remain resilient in the future, and cement Dubai’s industrial excellence on a global scale. In a world that is simultaneously emboldened and threatened by rapid change, innovation is our only way forward.

Saud Abu Al Shawareb is the executive vice president – ​​Industrial Leasing at TECOM

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