“The UAE is already the most innovative Arab nation. Our target is to be among the most innovative nations in the world. The competitiveness race demands a constant flow of new ideas, as well as innovative leadership using different methods and tools to direct the change,” HH Sheikh Mohammed said at the launch of the National Innovation Strategy.

Within seven years, UAE would be the most innovative nations in the world.

UAE National Innovation Strategy: the sectors

The strategy will work on innovation by stimulating seven sectors where it is key to excellence:

  • Renewable energy
  • Transportation
  • Education
  • Health
  • Technology
  • Water
  • Space

“This innovation strategy is a national priority for our development and progress’ program. It is a primary tool to achieve Vision 2021 and an engine for the growth of distinctive skills and capabilities across the nation. We have always called for creativity in every field: this strategy is a concrete step to implement that vision. These initiatives around innovation will enhance quality of life in the UAE and take our economy to new horizons,” HH Sheikh Mohammed added.

The strategy contains practical initiatives in each of its seven priority sectors.

The 2021 Vision seeks to place the UAE among the top countries in the world through, inter alia, transitioning to a knowledge-based economy and promoting innovation and research & development. The relevant key indicators set for 2021 Vision have placed targets for 2021 that include the following:

  • Global Innovation Index to rank UAE among top 20 countries up from rank 35 in 2013;
  • R&D expenditures of 1.5% from GDP as opposed to its current rate of 0.5%;
  • Non-Oil Real GDP Growth of 5% up from 3.5%.


UAE National Innovation Strategy: the phases

Its first phase includes 30 national initiatives to be completed within three years. These include new legislation, innovation incubators, investment in specialized skills, private-sector incentives, international research partnerships, and an innovation drive within government.

The National Innovation Strategy sets out four tracks of action:

  • Anchoring a simulating environment for innovation in the form of supportive institutions and laws;
  • Developing government innovation by institutionalizing innovative practices with the support of an integrated system of modern tools, requiring all government entities to reduce spending by 1% and to dedicate the savings to research and innovation projects;
  • Encouraging private sector innovation by stimulating companies to establish innovation and scientific research centers, to adopt new technologies and to develop innovative products and services;
  • Qualifying individuals with highly innovative skills by concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including the creation of educational material for schools and universities.

“Innovation today is driven by effective institutions, strong policies, specialized skills, and an economy where all sectors work together to discover new ways to conduct business. A flexible and creative economy based on a national culture of innovation is the fastest and most sustainable way to reinforce the U.A.E. competitiveness on a global level,” HH Sheikh Mohammed said.

UAE National Innovation Strategy: state of the art

Current annual investment in innovation is worth AED 14 billion in the U.A.E., of which AED 7 billion goes to research and development. Innovation spending will rise significantly in the years to come.

The National Innovation Strategy includes 16 indicators to measure progress. Government-sector indicators include the percentage of innovative ideas and the proportion of budget allocated to innovation. Private-sector indicators include R&D investment and the knowledge profile of the workforce. Global indicators include an overall measure comparing countries innovation capabilities, as well as indicators for the protection of intellectual property, the creation of patents and the availability of scientists and engineers.