If you build it

Just in the past few weeks we've seen two examples of home-grown high-tech projects apparently paying dividends in the region.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  June 22, 2008

Just in the past few weeks we've seen two examples of home-grown high-tech projects apparently paying dividends - first the fully-autonomous ‘Reem B' robot, unveiled in Abu Dhabi, and now the first advanced chip design to come out of Dubai Silicon Oasis.

As others have noted, Reem B is certainly worthy of attention, and although it represents an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step in robot design, it does suggest that the Middle East is capable of nurturing complex projects to fruition.

It may also be true that the talent behind the robot is not as home-grown as the robot itself - but this is the case of many academic centres around the world. And while raw talent is important, providing the resources and - critically - the framework to nurture it is absolutely critical.

This is also true of the Dubai Circuit Design (DCD) team, which has produced the Middle East's first chip design. In a release it comments that its team has more than 100 years of experience between its members, from industry giants such as Intel, Texas Instruments, ST Microelectronics, Qualcomm and Wipro, among others.

Again, many chip start-ups have boasted all the talent they could wish for, and still foundered - so credit to DCD for coming up with a workable design, especially at the 65-nanometre level, a technology the majors only mastered in recent years.

Of course this is all still somewhat nebulous at this stage - from the DCD release, it's not clear if the design will go into production, or if it's a proof of concept. And there's no guarantee how many more designs we will see from the firm.

But all of this is to miss the point, which is that the Middle East is now taking technology seriously, and at least exploring its viability as a business. The region has seen a number of technology start-ups in the past - including successful ventures such as Sphere Networks - but Reem B and DCD have the backing of governments and prominent UAE figures.

As a first step this is terrific, and will hopefully lead to development in less glamorous - but potentially more critical - fields such as software development and security. Projects such as Dubai Silicon Oasis - and the forthcoming Knowledge Economic City in Al Madinah - can only aid development.

The day when regional enterprises will have a serious selection of Middle East-developed IT offerings to choose from is not here yet - but it looks like it's on its way.

Eliot Beer is the editor of Arabian Computer News.

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