Robotics and Automation to drive economic growth in Dubai


Businesses across industries are betting big on robotics and automation, with billions of dollars being set aside for the implementation of these emerging technologies to boost productivity and efficiency. With the opportunities in the global robotics and automation market expected to grow significantly over the next decade, Dubai is setting its sights on becoming a key global player in the industry and aiming for the sector’s contribution to its gross domestic product (GDP) to grow to 9% in the next 10 years. 

In order to diversify its future economy and become a key global hub for robotics and automation technology, Dubai is making a concerted effort to develop a world-class robotics ecosystem in the UAE. This includes several government initiatives, such as the introduction of the Dubai Robotics and Automation Program, the Emirates Robotics Competition, and the first Roboday event, which took place on January 18, 2023.


“We seek to make Dubai one of the world’s top 10 cities in Robotics and Automation by adopting and developing advanced robotics technologies, empowering national talent, and generating innovative new solutions, products, and services,” Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dubai Future Foundation, said during the launch of the ‘Dubai Robotics and Automation (R&A) Program.’

Launched with the aim of achieving the vision to transform Dubai into a global destination for innovation in R&A applications, Dubai R&A Program seeks to boost the development, testing and adoption of R&A; accelerate the use of its application in key economic sectors; create new economic opportunities; and, improve the quality of life.

The Dubai R&A Program – which is based on three pillars, namely, government, support for R&D, and adoption and utilisation of technologies – features five strategics initiatives, including establishing a council for R&A and launching an academic excellence program, as well as accelerating research and development in five focus areas: production and manufacturing, consumer services and tourism, connected mobility and logistics, extreme environments, and healthcare.

As part of the Dubai R&A Program, 200,000 robots will be provided over the next 10 years to increase efficiency and productivity in various sectors including services, logistics, and the industrial sector, and enhance the competitiveness of Dubai’s economy. The Program is led by Dubai Future Labs, the Dubai Future Foundation’s applied research and development lab specialized in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Dubai Future Labs

With a vision to become the core engine of Dubai’s innovation ecosystem, Dubai Future Labs runs state-of-the-art Robotics and AI applied research projects to make a global impact and ensure Dubai’s readiness for the future. Through its engineers and industry experts, the Dubai Future Labs acts as a consultant for the government, advising on technological challenges that could hinder the adoption of advanced technologies in key sectors.

At the 2022 edition of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) – one of the largest and most impactful robotics research conferences in the world – Dubai Future Labs showcased its latest innovations in the space, introducing two unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) developed by in-house talents for the logistics sector, including a last-mile delivery robot and an intralogistics vehicle.

“Dubai Future Labs’ participation at IROS invites the robotics and research community to explore partnership and investment opportunities offered by Dubai’s unique innovation ecosystem. This also highlights Dubai’s role in testing and developing technological applications, designing the best future and empowering talents,” said Khalifa Al Qama, Director of Dubai Future Labs.

Building a robotics ecosystem in Dubai

In a move to build a robust robotics and automation ecosystem in Dubai and bring together key stakeholders from across the world, the Emirates also held its first-ever Roboday event at Dubai Silicon Oasis, with the support of Dubai Future Labs and Dtec.

The event saw the participation of key players in the robotics and automation industry, including Robosculptor, Micropolis Robotics, Peppermint Robotics, Jacky’s Business Solutions, Drone Center, and many more.

"The market potential is very high. In Dubai Silicon Oasis, we are planning to build a full ecosystem for robotics, consisting of international companies, startups, and students. In this environment, they will be able to participate in specialized events, create new ideas, and tackle challenges... This is our first initiative to build the robotics ecosystem within Dubai," said Ghanim Alfalasi, Senior Vice President of Dubai Silicon Oasis.

In order to build on the deliberations held at the first edition of the Roboday event and attract even more companies to the ecosystem to shape the future of the robotics ecosystem in the UAE, the organizers plan to hold another Roboday in May 2023.

Empowering future talent
As part of the vision to create a vibrant robotics ecosystem and establish UAE’s position as a global testbed for emerging technologies, Dubai Future Labs has also teamed up with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Khalifa University of Science and Technology to launch the Emirates Robotics Competition.

The Competition seeks to bridge the gap between the current robotic capabilities and the requirements of potential applications, while ensuring that the next generation of talent is equipped with the skills required to succeed in the robotics and technology domains.

“Digital transformation and its corresponding future technologies are critical to empower all of us to be ready for the future and support diversifying the economy and address societal shifts. Robotics is a main element in that We are excited to host the first Emirates Robotics Competition in February 2023. Through this competition, we aim to establish long-term engagements with academia and strategic partners in order to promote purposeful robotics solutions, machine learning, and automation,” said Dr. Yousef Al Assaf, President of RIT Dubai.

According to the 2022 McKinsey Global Industrial Robotics Survey, automation is expected to account for 25% of industrial companies’ capital spending over the next five years, with the biggest spender set to be retail and consumer goods businesses where over 23% of respondents confirmed they planned to spend more than $500 million over the period.

Disclaimer: This article is a part of featured content series on Business in Dubai

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