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Middle East and North Africa / United Arab Emirates

Industry 5.0 reimagined in Abu Dhabi

The growth of cloud is a global trend, and Abu Dhabi is positioning itself to be a leader.

Industry 5.0 sees humans working alongside smart machines to build a sustainable, human-centric and dynamic economy. In that world, data is king, and the way we handle that data makes all the difference. Today, the adoption of technologies like 5G and cloud is growing exponentially, transforming the way business is done around the world.

“New business models will emerge, legacy businesses will be challenged by new start-ups, a lot of new jobs that didn’t exist before will be created,” says Ussama Dahabiyeh, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based technology champion Injazat. Injazat is a digital transformation and cybersecurity leader empowering organisations to embrace the digital future through emerging technologies including cloud.

Home to large next-generation data centres, high-quality infrastructure, including world-leading 5G networks, and a host of trailblazing international cloud service providers, the future of business is being defined in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi government’s economic vision recognises ICT as one of the key engines of economic growth and diversification, making Abu Dhabi the seedbed of a generation of innovations that will not only serve its own market, but which have huge export potential and create opportunities for international companies as well.

“The growth of cloud is a global trend, and Abu Dhabi is positioning itself to be a leader,” says Dahabiyeh.

Leading by example

Connectivity is at the heart of Industry 5.0. Advanced automation like driverless cars and robot-run supermarkets will be supported by high-speed data exchange and seamless integration of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and big data. In order to establish this level of ultra-connectivity, businesses and governments must take the leap of faith to digitise their operations and embrace the potential of innovative technologies.

Abu Dhabi’s innovative approach starts at the top, with a government that is committed to encouraging the digital economy to grow and flourish. “There is a great desire and urgency at the top level to leap forward and embrace digital,” explains Dahabiyeh. The emirate’s data strategy promises to benefit Abu Dhabi’s citizens and economy by building a world-leading data-driven business and administrative ecosystem.

This includes transforming government operations. “There is a drive by the government to move from legacy IT infrastructure to cloud,” says Dahabiyeh. For example, the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA), in collaboration with Microsoft, is building a digital hub that integrates Abu Dhabi’s 1,600 government services into one platform, to streamline and improve the way citizens interact with the government. The use of advanced technologies to allow for ever more personalisation is a key facet of Industry 5.0.

“The government is one of the biggest consumers in digital,” Dahabiyeh adds. “That gives the fuel and opportunity for local and international technology companies to provide services and set up shop in Abu Dhabi.”

One of the defining forces of the transition from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0 is humanisation. In Abu Dhabi’s public sector, the potential of technology to solve high-impact human-level issues is being embraced. In 2019, Injazat, in partnership with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DOH), developed Malaffi, the first health information exchange (HIE) platform in the Middle East and Africa. Malaffi, which enables the exchange of healthcare records between medical facilities, has been identified as one of the fastest rolled-out HIEs globally and recently reached the milestone of connecting all hospitals in Abu Dhabi, in a little over two years. “We innovated to solve a big issue and deliver a high-impact project,” says Dahabiyeh. This paves the way for the private sector to follow suit.

Progress is underpinned by regulation, and regulators in the UAE are creating an environment in which technology companies can develop and innovate. The country implements strong intellectual property (IP) protocols, including Madrid Convention and TRIPS regulations, to protect inventors and innovators. Abu Dhabi’s regulatory regime is renowned for its transparent and progressive approach – in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), for example, the Middle East’s first FinTech regulatory regime is in force.

The right talent with the right tools

Innovation requires innovators, and developing the next generation of digital technology needs the top talent. While Industry 4.0 saw the arrival of automation, which liberated workers from repetitive tasks, Industry 5.0 is about redirecting that human effort to foster new ideas and creativity.

Abu Dhabi is cultivating this talent at home, with local ICT education expected to generate more than 2,000 ICT graduates per year, and the Mohammed bin Zayed University of AI, the world’s first AI university, offering PhD and Masters programmes in AI. This year, the Abu Dhabi Coding Academy will open its doors with a revolutionary approach to education that will enable a future-ready workforce.

On top of this, the UAE is improving the mobility of international talent with programmes like its Golden Visa, which is available to entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers and PhDs, granting long-term residence and 100% business ownership. Golden Visas are promoted as part of the Thrive in Abu Dhabi programme, fast-tracking citizenship for top talent.

“It’s also about preparing the infrastructure,” Dahabiyeh adds. As Industry 5.0 evolves from Industry 4.0, fast, reliable, flexible data transfer, intelligent sensors and a highly connected environment continue to be fundamental. Abu Dhabi ranked first in the region for fixed broadband speed and connectivity in the 2019 Global Speed Index and fourth in the world for launching and using 5G networks in the 2019 Global Connectivity Index. The UAE was one of the first countries in the world to implement 5G, and in 2019 Etisalat and DU announced AED 6bn of investment in 1,700 5G towers in Abu Dhabi.

“5G is very important because it’s a new highway to transfer data at exponentially higher speed than 4G and older generations of telecoms,” explains Dahabiyeh. “That opens the door for many different applications.” By allowing information to be rapidly sent to data centres and shared, high-speed data transfer makes devices smarter and facilitates new-generation technologies like AI, blockchain and machine learning, and Abu Dhabi has a strong head start.

Industry 5.0 also places a new demand on infrastructure: sustainability. Abu Dhabi boasts high land availability, numerous free zones and relatively low energy prices – all of which lend themselves to developing advanced, sustainable infrastructure. Within free zones, such as Masdar City Free Zone and twofour54, businesses enjoy advantages like 100% foreign ownership, a low-cost operational environment, full repatriation of capital and profits and exemption from import, export, corporate and personal taxes.

An open environment

Industry 5.0 is about being dynamic, flexible and poised for progress. One of the stand-out merits of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s cloud strategy, according to Dahabiyeh, is its openness. Rather than being restricted to one provider, Abu Dhabi is home to a number of large international cloud operators, including Equinix, Oracle and Microsoft Azure, which have operated data centres in the emirate since 2019, as well as wholesale provider Khazna Data Centres, one of the UAE’s largest commercial data centre providers. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is set to open data centres in Abu Dhabi in the first half of 2022. As issues of data sovereignty, confidentiality and data exchange evolve globally, Dahabiyeh believes that a strategy of openness is the wisest approach.

It is also a foundation of development and scalability. “At Injazat, too, our focus is to be technology agnostic and to allow our customers to benefit from multiple clouds,” he explains. “That flexibility and speed allows you to grow your service much faster.”

At the same time, Abu Dhabi has invested in its own cloud through Group 42 (G42), the region’s leading Artificial Intelligence and cloud computing company, which serves industries from healthcare to smart cities.

“In the financial sector especially, there is a lot of innovation. As regulators work hard to adopt alternative finance, companies like Injazat and G42 are a great starting point to partner with local trusted tech agnostic companies that understand the market well and have the ability to deliver at speed,” says Dahabiyeh.

Redefining failure

“The technology sector is all about innovation, trial and error,” Dahabiyeh explains. “With every failure, substantial lessons are learned.” Industry 5.0 is set to refine, not replace, Industry 4.0. Its progress is iterative by nature: each stage builds on the last, and creativity is key.

This kind of innovation relies on a supportive ecosystem in which start-ups can test, learn and grow. Abu Dhabi offers a uniquely nurturing framework, in which early investors are providing more and more funding and opportunities to entrepreneurs, as seen in tech ecosystems like Hub71,which provide start-ups and tech businesses the launchpad they need to excel in Abu Dhabi and beyond.

In 2020, Injazat and Hub71 announced a partnership to support the development of start-ups and accelerate the adoption of advanced technologies by large enterprises. R&D funding is available to innovative businesses through the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) ICT fund, and ADGM is home to the world’s second most active regulatory sandbox, designed to allow innovators to test prototypes in a low-risk environment. “Abu Dhabi is an environment that encourages innovation, where new smart devices can be tested and put to work,” says Dahabiyeh.

Blue-sky thinking for innovative companies

All this adds up to an ideal hub for innovative companies looking for a base in the Middle East. As Abu Dhabi makes strides towards Industry 5.0, the emirate promises to not only meet its growing domestic technological demands but to develop exportable technology for the region and the world, spearheading transformation on a global scale.

“The sky is the limit, and we are at the beginning of exploring all these possibilities,” says Dahabiyeh.

To find out more about ICT investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi, download the Abu Dhabi Prospectus above.