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GCC, ‘smart city’ District 2020 sign partnership to support start-ups

GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Al-Hajraf

RIYADH: The Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced yesterday the signing of a partnership with District 2020 to provide support to start-up businesses across the region through District 2020’s Scale2Dubai global entrepreneur program. The agreement was signed by GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Al-Hajraf and Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said the Secretariat General in a statement.

The alliance underlines the commitment of District 2020 – the future of Expo 2020 Dubai that will evolve into a human-centric smart community and a global innovation ecosystem – to support the growth of entrepreneurship in the UAE and across the GCC region.

“This is an important and strategic collaboration for the GCC’s present and future, as we commit to working alongside partners like District 2020. The fact that start-ups and small businesses contribute significantly to the GCC’s GDP is well known, meaning such companies are crucial to creating sustainable economic progress in the future,” said Hajraf.

“Together with District 2020, we will stimulate the growth potential of the region and enable a start-up ecosystem to flourish. We will do this by identifying the most promising companies and giving them District 2020 as a platform. Here, they will be exposed to collaborative innovation across key industries and technologies, which will in turn stimulate job creation and drive competition in the wider economy,” he added.

Hajraf pointed out that this agreement signifies the strong alignment between District 2020’s mandate to support the local and regional start-up ecosystem, and the mission of the GCC to promote economic, security, cultural and social cooperation among the Arabian Gulf states. It also recognizes the pivotal role of start-ups and small businesses in driving transformative, innovation-led ideas and growth. “As part of ongoing efforts to diversify their economies, Gulf nations are looking to entrepreneurs and innovators to develop new sectors and approaches, and supplement government initiatives through a sustainable and shared vision,” Hajraf said.

Meanwhile, Hashimy said that building partnerships that will reinvigorate economies, fuel prosperity and create better lives for people across the UAE, the region, and the world is Expo 2020’s mission. This pivotal alliance between District 2020 and the GCC will foster entrepreneurship and give start-ups and small businesses the opportunity to realize their full potential in a supportive, connecting ecosystem – a powerful launch pad for growth and a demonstration of Expo’s meaningful, long-term legacy.

District 2020 is bringing together regional and global entities comprising Fortune 500 companies, SMEs, start-ups, academic institutes, labs, accelerators and venture capitalists to curate an ecosystem that is focused on spurring innovation. Through this partnership, the GCC will support in identifying and channeling to its Scale2Dubai program a pipeline of high-potential start-ups and small businesses that are aligned with District 2020’s ecosystem focus areas. Scale2Dubai is designed to facilitate a soft landing within Dubai through an easy set up within District 2020’s ecosystem, and aims to help start-ups and small businesses overcome the most challenging aspect of growth: scaling.

Each year, the equity-free program is expected to support between 80 and 100 of these businesses, with the first cohort being selected during Expo 2020 Dubai. It will offer successful applicants two years of free work space, business setup support and guidance needed to scale up, while also providing access to funding, deal flow, networking opportunities and connections with big-name global players such as Siemens, DP World, and Terminus Technologies. District 2020 will actively facilitate opportunities for cross-industry collaboration between these large and small businesses, driving mutually beneficial exchange and providing a launchpad from which to access the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region (MEASA) and global markets.

District 2020’s enabling environment will be an ideal home for budding businesses and entrepreneurs, and is designed to stimulate creativity, knowledge exchange and innovation. Businesses will become part of District 2020’s human-centered smart urban community, which will provide a fully integrated destination to live and work. Promoting a balanced and social lifestyle, the mixed-use community combines the best of the physical and the virtual, by integrating next generation connectivity, flexible workplaces, modern urban living, experiential events, culture, learning, retail, hospitality, and F&B offerings, in one destination.

The Scale2Dubai program is currently accepting expressions of interest from local, regional and international start-ups through the District 2020 website: www.district2020.ae/scale2dubai. The application and short-listing process will follow, with the first cohort of successful applicants announced during the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai. Those chosen to be part of the program will be able to move into their workspaces at District 2020 shortly after Expo 2020 closes, when District 2020 begins its phased opening by October 2022. – KUNA


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