His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), has officially inaugurated the DIFC Innovation Hub, which is located in the city’s Gate Avenue.
The facility is part of the new Dubai Future District announced in January 2020 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“The establishment of the DIFC Innovation Hub is an integral part of the strategic roadmap for realising HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for innovation-driven growth in Dubai,” comments Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed. “The new facility is a key initiative aimed at generating new economic value by fostering the development of innovation, enterprise and talent across sectors, especially in future-oriented industries. This initiative supports Dubai’s aspiration to become a leading global player in shaping the future of vital sectors and creating a thriving international innovation hub in Dubai.”
“The DIFC Innovation Hub is also a testament to Dubai’s emphasis on creating strong partnerships with players across the financial services value chain, ranging from large global corporations to promising small and medium enterprises and start-ups. Dubai seeks to constantly enhance its hard and soft infrastructure for innovators, investors and entrepreneurs from across industries to transform ideas into ventures that create enduring value. Amidst the unprecedented changes that the world is currently seeing, Dubai’s leadership continues to place a high priority on creating new models for growth and development, discovering solutions for turning crises into opportunities and advancing the horizons of technology to help usher in a bright new post-pandemic world,” he added.
His Highness commended DIFC’s management for contributing to Dubai’s sustainable development and economic diversification and establishing the Centre as the region’s foremost source of financial innovation. DIFC is recognised internationally as a leading global centre for fintech, and the Innovation Hub is set to play a key role in driving collaboration between early-stage and growth start-ups, tech unicorns and big tech firms to accelerate success. Members of the Hub will benefit significantly from being part of DIFC, the region’s largest ecosystem of financial services related companies that are collectively shaping the future of the industry.
His Highness approved the expansion of the DIFC Innovation Hub, which will increase its size four-fold to over 315,000 sq. ft. In just two months, the current 80,000 sq. ft. space is being fully utilised. Over the next two years, the expansion will include the development of an additional tower linked to the existing DIFC Innovation Hub. Accommodating up to 1,000 businesses, the building will have fitted offices, co-working spaces and light F&B outlets in the concourse and fine dining outlets at the rooftop level.
His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, and Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, briefed His Highness on DIFC’s comprehensive innovation proposition before touring the Innovation Hub to meet talented entrepreneurs, unicorns, visionaries, fintech pioneers and creators within the Innovation Hub.
“Technology and innovation are strong drivers of Dubai’s transformational growth, cementing its reputation as a global centre that attracts capital and talent,” comments Essa Kazim. “With a strong focus on promoting promising start-ups and innovative ventures, DIFC is accelerating the strategic and sustainable development of the economy to be future-ready. The DIFC Innovation Hub is the region’s dedicated zone for innovators and investors to leverage the extraordinary potential of new generation technology.”
Arif Amiri added “Dubai has created a global model for accelerating technology innovation and promoting a culture of entrepreneurship that fosters the development of a new ecosystem of opportunities for tech innovators and investors. As the nation prepares for the Next 50, it is strategically imperative that we create robust platforms that support digital-first, innovative ventures that contribute value to the future economy. DIFC Innovation Hub serves as the definitive destination for nurturing the next unicorns from our region while helping build a strong fintech sector and creating new jobs for talented professionals.”
Harnessing Innovation Opportunities
The region’s leading fintech-focused ecosystem, the DIFC Innovation Hub is a major part of the Dubai Future District in 2020 with over 350 fintech and innovation firms. The Innovation Hub will strengthen and enrich the DIFC ecosystem significantly by providing fintechs at all stages of their evolution with unparalleled access to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and experts.
Tenants range from early to growth-stage start-ups such as YAP, Beehive, Tabby, Xpence, Stake, Rain and Bayzat as well as Thunderbird School of Global Management, part of Arizona State University. Other established tech companies include Ebury, Huawei and Amazon.
Fintech and innovation businesses in the Hub can connect and collaborate with many of the world’s top financial institutions based in DIFC. Following 2020’s record performance, more than 2,919 businesses, of which 915 are financial and innovation firms, are active in the Centre.
Supporting Innovation Through Education
DIFC Academy continues to accelerate the country’s economic growth by developing much-needed local talent. As part of the Centre’s vision to develop human capital and the skills needed for the future, DIFC Academy has launched the Future Campus, a knowledge platform that offers over 400 online degree programmes, practical skills-based training courses and education opportunities to UAE nationals and residents from leading global academic institutions. The Future Campus, which can serve up to 25,000 students a year, offers programmes that focus on skills and knowledge for the future.
Nurturing Innovation Within The DIFC Fintech Hive
In addition to the broader ecosystem for innovation, DIFC has developed several key initiatives to realise its goal of nurturing innovation and driving the future of finance. Led by the DIFC Fintech Hive, this programme includes its Fintech Accelerator, which recently closed submissions for the first of its two 2021 ‘sprints’. The Accelerator provides its participants, of which there have been nearly 130 to date, a programme that includes access to potential partners and investors, as well as workshops, events and co-working spaces within the new Innovation Hub.
DIFC also recently initiated the third edition of its AccelerateHer mentoring programme, which supports gender diversity within the financial community. This career mentoring programme ensures DIFC is actively encouraging the next generation of female business leaders by providing hands-on mentoring and career development support for up to 15 candidates selected every year.
Innovative Licenses and Regulations
DIFC recognises the importance of enabling start-ups and entrepreneurs to establish, test and scale their innovative businesses within its world-class regulatory and legal framework. To facilitate this, DIFC offers a selection of cost-effective operating and regulatory licenses suitable for businesses of all sizes. For example, the DIFC Innovation License offers a subsidised commercial license for up to four years, enabling a quick and fully digital business setup for non-regulated fintech and Innovation companies, while the DFSA Innovation Testing License offers a Launchpad for cutting-edge technologies to prove themselves within a regulatory sandbox.
Funding Tomorrow’s Innovations
Access to funding remains a key challenge for many start-ups. Not only does the DIFC Innovation Hub connect with a wealth of commercial partners, but it also actively delivers financial initiatives to provide funding. DIFC’s own $100 million Fintech Fund was established to bridge the funding gap for growth stage start-ups in the region and has successfully financed seven companies to date, including Sarwa, Beehive, NOW Money, FlexxPay, Rise, Rain, and Clara.
Meanwhile, given DIFC’s track record in successfully fostering new fintechs and innovations, the new Hub’s residents benefit from increased profile amongst Venture Capital (VC) firms looking to identify the next generation of tech unicorns. DIFC also provides greater access to funding from VC firms which are encouraged to join the Centre through its tailored framework for streamlined setup. Fintech firms based in DIFC have now raised more than AED 1.1 billion ($298.8 million). The Innovation Hub will continue to provide financial as well as practical support in delivering the future of finance.