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The UAE's hidden gems
The hidden gems of UAE emerging tech
It's no secret that the UAE, and Dubai in particular, have been the Middle East operations hub for the world's technology industries. The launch of Dubai Internet City, the Arab world's first purpose-built tech hub, was announced in the year 2000. It is only relatively recently that government policy, funding and commercial interest have converged to focus on research and development, product development and encouraging tech developers.
According to startup and investment platform MAGNiTT, 2021 was a record breaking year for venture capital in the region with $2.6 billion in funding recorded, more than doubling the 2020 record of $1 billion. Last year, Dubai accounted for 26% of all deals closed across MENA and 45% of all funding raised across the region. And it's a fact of life that the media spotlight tends to focus on tech startups that have raised the most venture capital and ignore those that are self-financing, or more modestly funded in general.
Impressive though they are, the reported venture capital figures, news of new tech-focused investment funds and VC funding examples, belie more widespread change in both investment and ICT sectors. There is more and more innovation and R&D taking place in the UAE's tech sectors than ever before and much of this is 'below the surface'.
This month, the $4 million seed funding round of Dubai-based Micropolis Robotics, caught a little media attention and so highlighted one of the UAE's hidden gems.
Founded in 2014 as a digital and virtual reality development company, Micropolis pivoted to focus on autonomous systems and signed a collaboration agreement with Dubai Police Force to develop autonomous rovers for police use. The first two prototypes - M1 and M2 - have already been on display at Expo 2020 Dubai. And the story doesn't end there! We are sure to hear more innovation news from Micropolis in the near future.
Another of my favourite examples, is DP World's automation systems partner DGWorld, which is equipping Jebel Ali Port with a fleet of Autonomous Internal Terminal Vehicles or AITVs. The industrial automation company was originally founded in 2005 to serve the advertising and marketing industries. It pivoted 10 years later to focus on robotics systems. Recent years have seen DGWorld become a UAE powerhouse in port and logistics automation, with exciting prospects to come!
It's easy to be distracted by the fanfare around VC funding and believe that startups funded by investment firms and high-profile angel investors are the only source of innovation. This may be particularly true in the UAE, where there is naturally a lot of excitement that the VC ecosystem is now developing fast. However, there could be many more gems hidden beneath the surface, just waiting to be discovered.
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