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A Nationwide Celebration: UAE Innovation Week

It began with an announcement, when His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AlNahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, declared 2015 as the “Year of Innovation” in the country. HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai then dedicated November 22-28, 2015 as UAE Innovation Week, where institutions throughout the nation would showcase their innovations. The Week was a nationwide celebration of innovation for government, the private sector, and educational institutions, involving citizens, residents, and visitors from all age groups. Emirates Post Group even issued a set of commemorative stamps in coordination with the UAE Prime Minister's Office to celebrate the Week.

UAE Innovation Week featured more than a 1000 activities all across the country. Its guiding framework was the UAE’s National Innovation Strategy, and the seven sectors that it focuses on: Renewable Energy, Technology, Education, Transportation, Health, Water and Space. The Week’s highlights included the launch of the AED 300 billion (USD 81 billion) Science, Technology and Innovation policy.

One of the Week’s other major announcements was the world’s biggest solar plant, worth AED 50 billion (USD 13.6 billion). It will be commissioned in 2030 with 5000MW of energy, and 25% of Dubai’s energy in 2030 will be clean energy, rising to 75% in 2050.

“The UAE is working towards establishing a solid future for the coming generations away from the fluctuation of the energy prices and markets," says HH Sheikh Khalifa. "The UAE has set its course for a post-oil world through investing in the development of our people in the fields of science and advanced technology." 

Also during the Week, the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and UAE University announced a collaboration with Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development on developing an innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum. It will be a mandatory course taught in 20 government and private universities in the various undergraduate disciplines starting in January 2016, and will be adopted by 80 universities by September 2016.

To make everything run as smoothly as possible, a Supreme Committee for UAE Innovation Week led by His Excellency Mr. Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, made up of Secretary Generals from all seven Emirates Executive Councils was formed with a supporting coordinating team. This is the first time that all local, federal, educational and private sector entities have worked together as a team to make the event a success. Everyone wanted to make the whole week great, and helped each other advertise their activities, contributed financial sponsorship, and offered spaces to host the activities. Some entities even lent their best employees to help each other carry out their innovation week projects.

“I do not deny it was difficult in the beginning to convince them to participate or work together, but once they did... They really shined!” said Hessa Al Falasi, Emirate of Fujairah coordinator. The coordinators worked to make sure they instilled a culture of innovation, receiving proposals from the Emirates and coordinating the various activities in the country.

Another major event, which took place at the beginning of the week, was the showcase of the Public Sector Innovation Diploma Program (PSID) prototypes launch event. The Public Sector Innovation Diploma program is one of the key initiatives by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, following HH Sheikh Mohammed’s directions to PSID participants to work on solving government challenges associated with the UAE 2021 Vision priorities. This particular project was a breakthrough after the introduction of the new role of Chief Innovation Officer in the UAE federal Government in the first quarter of 2015.

The goal of UAE Innovation Week was not only to launch highly innovative ideas, but also to also strengthen the UAE’s position as a global hub for innovation and create a widespread culture of innovation in the UAE, motivating the government, the private sector, and individuals to adopt innovative practices in their daily lives.

The Week’s activities included innovation labs, hackathons, workshops, innovation competitions and awards, seminars, talks, initiatives, partnerships launches and much more. A digital platform was created at where all of the events were made visible to the public. The website was visited from all around the world, with top countries being the United States, India, and the United Kingdom. Media played an important role in documenting what the Week had to offer and made every individual feel like a part of the week. Everyone had the chance to participate through the hashtag #UAE_innovates from any part of the world, and the Week’s social media reached over 53 million people in total. More than 500 cities around the world followed the UAE Innovation Week on social media, a dedicated YouTube channel was also created to keep people involved, and it acted as documentation for most of the Week’s events.

UAE Innovation Week grabbed the attention of an extraordinary amount of people nationwide and worldwide. It also gave the chance for innovations from the nation to be celebrated and showcased, and to support the every day work of individuals. Onoud AlDhanhani from Dibba Hospital said “I was struggling before the Week, nobody listened to me. Some of my ideas were ridiculed, and most were disregarded. When Innovation Week happened, many of my ideas for activities were implemented and that was just the beginning.”

As a result of the success of the 2015 UAE Innovation Week, it was announced that the Week will be an annual event and that the dates for 2016 will be between 20-26 November. To learn more about the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation, visit us online.