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OurCrowd to open UAE AI R&D centre
OurCrowd to open AI R&D centre in Abu Dhabi
OurCrowd, Israel's most active venture capital investor, this week announced plans to open an artificial intelligence research and development centre in Abu Dhabi by early June this year, which could turn out to be the first R&D investment in the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates from Israel.
One of the first venture capital firms from Israel to engage with the UAE market following August 2020's Abraham Accords, OurCrowd moved quickly to appoint Dr. Sabah al-Binali as UAE-based venture partner and head of the Gulf region (see image above). Dr. al-Binali is former vice chairman of Abu Dhabi investment management firm The National Investor and ex-Chief Investment Officer of Shuaa Capital.
In November 2021, OurCrowd disclosed that it was the first Israeli fund manager to secure a licence from Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) to operate in the Emirates. The company's stated goals for its new wholly-owned UAE subsidiary were to open up local investment opportunities for its investors, raise capital in the UAE to invest in Israeli startups, to open new venture capital funds and to create an R&D operation. Just four months later, OurCrowd is making good on that R&D goal.
According to Dr. al-Binali's comments to Reuters this week, the Abu Dhabi-based R&D centre is to be called The Global AI Innovation Centre and will employ about 50 engineers. He revealed few details about the operation, but it sounds like the new R&D centre will provide AI development and data services* to OurCrowd, tech firms and corporate innovators.
OurCrowd's R&D centre will be equipped to process huge volumes of data and Dr. al-Binali could have hinted at an on-demand pricing model, when he compared the company's plans to Amazon's Web Services and an intention to create modular services. These days, AWS offers AI platform, machine learning services and cloud infrastructure, helping to fast-track AI application development for clients.
We're sure to hear more about the new R&D venture during the next few weeks. Meanwhile, it's perhaps noteworthy that, with this announcement, OurCrowd's highest-profile initiative in the UAE is now about investing in the country, rather than securing outbound investment.
* Since this newsletter was published a new OurCrowd interview appeared in the Times of Israel clarifying the role of the AI R&D centre. According to the interview, the new centre will provide advanced AI-based financial research as a service. If successful, the business model could later be used for other industries such as medtech and agtech.
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