Dubai Internet City plans R&D zone

Dubai Internet City (DIC) could create a zone for research and development (R&D) facilities in Dubai, in a bid to encourage companies to develop new products in the UAE. The company which is owned by the Dubai Holdings Group has turned its sights to developing the R&D industry in the UAE, and admits the country does not currently provide the right environment for such activities.

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By  Diana Milne Published  September 3, 2006

Dubai Internet City (DIC) could create a zone for research and development (R&D) facilities in Dubai, in a bid to encourage companies to develop new products in the UAE. The company which is owned by the Dubai Holdings Group has turned its sights to developing the R&D industry in the UAE, and admits the country does not currently provide the right environment for such activities. Jamal Abdul Salam, executive director of DIC told Arabian Business that the company is currently carrying out a feasibility study into the possibility of setting up a cluster of R&D companies in Dubai either within DIC or on another site. IT expects to come a decision on the feasibility of such a concept by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year. Salam said he does not believe Dubai is currently ready to offer a zone for R&D companies. “We’re not ready now. R&D is not an easy thing. We need to make sure that the funding is available, we need to make sure that the talent is available, we need to make sure that the business partners or the customers that are here to do R&D, are comfortable enough to come and do their R&D here. ”We don’t want them to question that as an issue.” Two of the elements that Salman stressed must be present in order to encourage a thriving R&D industry are funding and regulations regarding intellectual property (IP) rights. The funding issue is close to being resolved however following the announcement last September of the Middle East’s first ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Development Fund by the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA). This fund will be financed through the levying of a 1% charge on the annual revenues of both Etisalat and Du and will be partly used to invest in R&D in the region. Salam went on to explain that regulations are currently being developed surrounding IP law in the UAE which would also help to support the growth of the R&D industry. “R&D is not like when you decide to have a sales and marketing office,” said Salam. ”It requires talent, it requires regulations, it requires funding, and these elements have to be there. We see that these elements are going to take place.” He said he was optimistic would indeed go ahead given the fact that 850 IT companies already operate from DIC. “I’m optimistic, I can say that. You see some of the elements are already here, some of them are almost there. 850 companies are already available; most of them are in the Fortune 500 companies. “Funding is also coming and Dubai has always been attractive so the elements are almost complete.” According to Salam, the development an R&D industry which will encourage the development of new IT products and software within the UAE will add significant value to the economy. “Well, you see R&D is not like having a sales and marketing departments, sales and marketing units or companies. “They do add value to the economy. “But if you create patents out of Dubai this is a real value. When you have our business partners doing the patents out of Dubai this is actually valuable contract.” He added that such an industry would also make great strides towards the establishment of a knowledge economy in Dubai. “On the long term of course, you see the way we look at it it’s not just a direct income or revenue from having the R&D, the overall vision of Dubai 2010 is to transform Dubai from an economy that is sustained on oil to an economy which is sustained in knowledge. “And having an R&D centre basically complements this overall vision, vision 2010.” The organisation is in the initial stages of its feasibility study, which includes workshops with business partners and the visiting of other R&D sites around the world. If it goes ahead, he said, the first step would be to attract the big names in the industry to the zone. “We are at the initial stage today. Today as we speak there are different teams assessing this initiative or this sector and trying to see how can we make it real. “Having an R&D centre, or cluster is more of a long-term vision or a long-term project. It’s like what we have done with DIC, we need to have a starting point, but first we need to have a peace of mind or comfort that this is do-able. ”So once we come to a state where we believe this is the way forward we will take it step by step. ”We will focus of course on getting anchor players and the anchor players will get their business partners – like what we have done here with DIC. “The workshops are happening, that includes business partners, there are site visits, globally, visiting sites and trying to see how they have achieved their objective and how can we match it here in Dubai in DIC.” More details are expected this week.

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