While the next six months will be among the most important in the history of the United Arab Emirates, as Dubai plays host to Expo 2020, the vision for the future does not stop there.
Once the event comes to an end, in March, the newly built environment will become District 2020, a location focused squarely on curating a global innovation ecosystem and an integrated community lifestyle.
Designers hope the area will evolve into a smart and sustainable mixed-use community built with human centricity at its core.
Fuelled by cross-industry collaboration, District 2020 will contribute to the growth of the innovation economy in Dubai through a focus on four key growth industries and disruptive technologies such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence and blockchain.
The innovation ecosystem will provide a work and lifestyle environment that will constantly evolve to cater to the changing needs of its future workers and residents.
As a community destination, District 2020 will welcome visitors and encourage residents to come together and enjoy the various attractions and spaces within the ecosystem, promoting a balanced lifestyle and personal wellbeing.
Developers recently confirmed a number of key partnerships that will contribute to the curation of its innovation ecosystem and its start-up community.
District 2020 is bringing together global entities comprising of Fortune 500 companies, small- and medium-sized businesses, start-ups, academic institutes, labs, accelerators and venture capitalists to actively curate the business ecosystem that will focus on spurring innovation.
In addition to major global tenants including German giant Siemens, Shanghai-based Terminus Technologies and DP World, District 2020 has announced new local and international alliances with start-up enabling entities from the UAE and from across international markets, including the USA, UK, Namibia, Slovenia, Malaysia and Botswana.
These latest partners will feed a global entrepreneur programme, Scale2Dubai, with a pipeline of eligible international start-ups and small businesses creating a network of local, regional and international start-ups at the heart of the innovation ecosystem.
The programme has been designed to give high-potential start-ups and small businesses the on-ground support to establish themselves in the UAE within District 2020, as a launchpad from which to access Middle East, Africa and south Asia and global markets.
Scale2Dubai is an equity-free programme, and its benefits include two years of free working space, a two-year visa, business set-up support, access to special rates from service providers, and access to networking events.
Through its human-centred approach and infrastructure design, District 2020 is carefully curating an ecosystem that will prioritise the needs of these businesses and the future workforce in a rapidly evolving global landscape and post-pandemic world.
The unique human-centric physical environment – which re-purposes 80 per cent of the Expo 2020 event infrastructure and iconic structures – has also been designed to fuel the collaboration and the spaces that will enable innovation to thrive.
As a fully integrated and human-scale community with pedestrianised neighbourhoods that combine flexible offices, modern residences, parks, retail, leisure, food and beverage and events, it will foster connection, a sense of community and balance.
It will cater to the needs of the future workplace and different sized innovation-driven businesses who are increasingly seeking flexibility and prioritizing health and wellness.
Ultimately, District 2020 is curating a progressive environment that aims to enable diverse businesses and people to connect, innovate and flourish.
Tala Al Ansari, director, Scale2Dubai, District 2020, said: “We are designing an innovation ecosystem and community that will enable businesses at District 2020 to realise their potential.
“We understand how challenging it is for most businesses to scale in new markets.
“By studying the challenges faced by start-ups and small businesses, we designed the Scale2Dubai programme to specifically address their needs and support them in their journey.
“Through our engagement with Scale2Dubai partners who possess vast entrepreneur networks, we are building a global innovation ecosystem and attracting businesses who will become valuable contributors to the growth of the UAE start-up ecosystem and innovation economy.”
Most recently, District 2020 has signed a memorandum of understanding with UK-based innovation accelerator, Connected Places Catapult — an innovation agency for cities, transport and places.
The organisation works with Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body operating close to the government as part of United Kingdom Research & Innovation.
The agreement between Connected Places Catapult and District 2020 will allow mutual areas of interest to develop urban solutions in the areas of smart cities and mobility
The agreement between District 2020 and Connected Places Catapult promises scope for further areas of cooperation.
This includes providing District 2020 with a stream of high potential start-ups who stand to benefit from access to its thriving innovation ecosystem and human-centric smart community as well as its unrivalled physical and digital infrastructure.
Not only will these organisations gain set-up support in launching themselves in Dubai but will also acquire unmatched access to markets across the Middle East, Africa and south Asia.
Nadimeh Mehra, vice president, District 2020, said: “We see significant potential to work together on driving purposeful technology innovation that will help people and urban communities to adapt and thrive in our ever-changing world.
“As an established expert in technology innovation, Connected Places Catapult will help spur research and catalyse solutions in sectors crucial to sustainable growth, focusing on the built environment and mobility.
“We look forward to working together to realise the potential of a global innovation ecosystem at District 2020 and help to identify and support promising UK enterprises to enter and scale in the UAE and new markets.”
Find out more about District 2020 on the new website.