Four of the most innovative companies and projects of Dubai
Over the last years, Dubai has been completely redesigning itself to make the transition from materials economy to ‘bits’ business; from a sandy desert to a tech hub. And now, it's doing everything in its power to become one of the most innovative, futuristic cities in the world within the next 10 years. The combination of the powerful support of a forward-thinking government with an ecosystems-focussed vision seem to be driving some impressive results: both well-established international companies seek haven in Dubai as well as numerous ambitious start-ups. Here are 4 of its most innovative companies and projects, showing the true power of (re)making something out of (almost) nothing.
One of the best ways to create a solid innovation ecosystem is by creating connections, between minds, between organisations, but also between regions. Fast and easy transportation of people and goods is a crucial part of that. So it should not come as a surprise that Virgin is building one the world's first Hyperloop One passenger and freight transportation lines between Dubai and Abi Dhabi, in collaboration with The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). For those of you who are not familiar with the radically innovative hyperloop: it is a supposedly affordable system of tubes through which a pod travels free of air resistance or friction, at airline speeds. In other words: it’s fast, really fast, reducing travel between both cities from about one hour (by car or train) to merely 12 minutes at 1080 kms/h.
Dubai perfectly understands that striving for the title of the most innovative city in the world, entails heavy investments in education and training. The society of the future cannot be built on old skills. A perfect example of this is Junkbot’s DIY robotic kit which may ‘just’ look like a fun way of confronting its users with technology but goes so much further. First of all, it enables young (and old) to create and build working robots from almost anything, like old CDs, wooden spoons or cardboard. So there’s a ‘green’ aspect to this start-up. Then of course, it teaches the core STEAM concepts of analytical thinking, problem solving, prototyping, lateral thinking and building to children, preparing them for a future of continuous learning. But perhaps the most beautiful part is that it stimulates children’s creativity and imagination, building something completely from scratch: a skill that is much needed in a future that increasingly fluid.
Another start-up that excels at building something out of nothing - which seems to be the red thread of a lot of Dubai endeavours - is Badia Farms. This vertical farm grows plants using stacks, placed vertically and managed to create a real oasis in the desert thanks to its high-tech farming methods. It uses 90 percent less water than open field growing, leaves a smaller footprint on the environment and is chemical-free, pesticide-free, and herbicide-free. Badia Farms is the first business in the UAE to supply gourmet greens to restaurant kitchen’s on the day they are picked - not many other farms to be found in the desert of course - and it’s the first ever vertical farm in the GCC region.
It’s just another great example of a city refusing to accept its limitations (the impossible challenge of growing crops in the desert) and instead just changing the rules completely.
The world’s first 3D-printed office building
Speed is essential in innovation. If you want to be able to grow your city, or expand your offices in order to match the pace of change, you can’t involve yourself in mastodonic projects that take years to complete. So Dubai is experimenting with new ways of building houses and offices, too. Dubai Future Foundation, for instance, is located in the very first 3D-printed office building in the world (a project it helped push): it was printed in 17 days and constructed in 48 hours. But this is not just a star studded showpiece project. It comes as part of the Dubai 3-D Printing Strategy, which focuses on the development of 3D printing to improve people’s lives. It will tackle three sectors: real estate and construction, medical, and consumer, and commits the Emirates to the use of 3D printing in 25% of its buildings by 2030.