Skip to main content

The innovation opportunities in Dubai

night dubai downtown skyline, Dubai

© Shutterstock

The oil and gas markets may still hold many developed opportunities for British companies looking to expand into Dubai, but other industry sectors - ranging from tourism, financial services to renewable energies - are emerging fast. The emphasis is on innovation.

Investment is being driven into many sectors and the local economy is diversifying. Construction projects continue to boom and new buildings continue to rise on the skyline, making Dubai an ideal location for innovative UK companies focused on the construction sector. There has been an explosion of investment into tourism and financial services. There has been heavy investment in renewable energy - by 2020, a planned seven per cent of Dubai’s energy is projected to be generated by renewables.

The Emirate has set its sights on becoming the new global centre for innovation. The Dubai Innovation Index report, which compares the level of innovation in Dubai with other global cities, is an annual benchmark publication.

The Dubai Future Accelerator programme, which started in September 2017, seeks to bring in “forward-thinking public and private sector organisations and start-ups” to use the city of Dubai “as a living testbed to co-create solutions for global and local challenges of tomorrow.”


Each programme lasts nine weeks and the current cohort is focusing on reinvigorating traditional retail through innovation in digital services. With nine public and private sector challenges still to be directly addressed through the accelerator, there will be many opportunities for British SMEs to apply and to help drive innovation in the city.


Dubai 2020 Expo


Then there is the Dubai 2020 Expo. This huge expo will feature vast exhibitions focusing on fostering innovation in three areas: opportunity, mobility and sustainability. For example, the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy aims to transform 25 per cent of the total transportation in Dubai to autonomous mode by 2030. The government’s Smart City programme aims to make Dubai one of the most connected and sustainable cities in the world.

Although the Expo will open in October 2020, jobs are rapidly being created to accommodate this huge project; more than $40bn has been generated in the local economy thus far. Dubai is looking to grow its international partners for the Expo; there are plenty of partnership opportunities for innovative UK companies in the construction and energy sectors.


The Expo is expected to have over 200 international participants and receive around 25 million international visitors. It is an event squarely aimed at putting Dubai on the map as an international investment and innovation hub. More information on the Expo as well as how to participate can be found here.

The Enterprise Europe Network is taking advantage of the growing opportunities in Dubai with a Company Mission on 26 November. This will involve numerous business matchmaking opportunities and a visit to the Dubai Future Accelerator as well. This Mission is intended to take advantage of the growing opportunities present in this emerging global hub for innovation.

Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. Learn about how we can help you achieve your innovation goals.