• Private sector companies driven by the UAE’s government’s vision to instil innovative strategies within their sectors
• Panels underline the importance of collaboration between all sectors to drive innovation
• Cyber Security and digital transformation highlighted as key issues to address by industry experts
• Forum hosted by leading imaging and product solutions company Canon Middle East, in association with MEED
Some of the senior industry leaders who participated in the forum included Anurag Agrawal, Managing Director, Canon Middle East; Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED; Vikram Krishna, Executive Vice President, Head of Group Marketing & Customer Experience, Emirates NBD; Michael Gernon, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Innovation, Research and Development, GEMS Education; Shadi Bakhour, B2B Business Unit Director, Canon Middle East; Mohamed Ahmed Abu Hamra, Manager, IT Application Management, Information Technology, UAE Region; DP World, Bhanu Shekhar, Chief Digital Officer & Head of Digital Solutions, GE Power; Karim El-Jisr, Director, Diamond Innovation Centre, SEE Nexus; Khaled Antoun, General Manager, Canon Emirates; Giorgio Flori, Managing Director, Accenture Middle East BV; and Thomas Bosse, Head of Programmes, Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence.
The speakers and panellists discussed the UAE’s Vision 2021 and innovation targets that aim to build a diversified and competitive economy. There was an emphasis on the successive achievements for UAE to date; all of which have contributed to improving its ranking in the 2017 Global Innovation Index to become the 35th most innovative nation globally – the first among all Arab countries. The discussion also revolved around the UAE government playing a vital role as an enabler of innovation.
The UAE’s consistent performance in driving an innovation-led agenda has inspired several industries in the private sector to follow its leading example and implement strategies of their own. Supporting the larger narrative is bringing academia and the private sector together to collaboratively push the UAE’s ambitious innovation goals.
A vital outcome of the discussion was that innovation is critical in all industries, but for a real impact to be felt, there needs to be closer collaboration between the public and private sectors. This deduction also forms part of the UAE’s innovation pillar 'United in Knowledge' of Vision 2021.
In his opening remarks, Agrawal emphasised Canon Middle East’s commitment to aligning with the government’s vision by harnessing the power of imaging solutions to support the UAE’s smart city ambitions as well as the needs of today’s generation of ‘digital natives’. He also reiterated that the aim of Frontiers of Innovation initiative is to bring government and businesses together to identify opportunities for collaborations that will contribute to the UAE’s Vision 2021 goals as well as the National Strategy for Innovation.
Other major highlights of the event included two panel discussions on ‘Outlining the aims and objectives of the newly launched Dubai Cyber Security Strategy’ and ‘Innovation and the critical role digital transformation will play in the development of UAE’.
On cyber security, the panellists discussed the threats posed by malware as nations and businesses shift to digitisation to improve workflow and efficiency. The focus was on the low level of awareness and protocols implemented – especially when it comes to employees and other business partners. Cyber security is the responsibility of everyone in an organisation and awareness needed to be raised across the board for tighter security. Implementation of clear policy and protocols are also essential.
Dr. Hani Ragab, Associate Professor, Heriot-Watt University explained that the UAE is a target for cyber-attacks because of the higher-income rates as well as the recent push to digital technology in the public and private sectors. The panel stressed that the UAE has to continue enforcing strict cyber security to keep threats at bay.
The panel discussion on digital transformation debated how digitisation can improve productivity and support the shift toward the establishing seamless Smart Cities that cater to the needs of future generations. Adopting digital technologies, like 3D Printing to print spare parts and even the full products eventually, are changing the ways businesses and governments operate. The UAE’s government has already led the way toward digital transformation through several initiatives, and the private sector has also started to follow suit. However, the panellists emphasised the need to change mindsets about digital technologies in organisations from top to bottom, and to push for larger collaboration between sectors for digital transformation to be truly transformational to societies.
Explaining the role on how the private sector can play in driving the innovation agenda in the UAE, Michael Gernon, Senior Vice President – Global Head of Innovation, Research and Development, GEMS Education said, that educators should prepare their students for future. It is time for us to think that when our children will finish school the world will be vastly different. The mission now is to be that every educator prepares of future.
The other areas which were discussed included the Smart Cities and the role of academia and the private sector, including SMEs, in driving the innovation agenda in the UAE as well as the rise of fintech, crypto currencies and blockchain technology.
On his part, MEED Editorial Director, Richard Thompson Said: “MEED is proud to have partnered with Canon on the second edition of our Frontiers of Innovation Forum. We are very pleased with the engaging conversations that took place on the threats of cyber security, smart cities, entrepreneurship, digitalisation and driving innovation across the UAE.”
List of speakers and topics
• Giorgio Flori, Managing Director, Accenture Middle East BV
• Bilal Ballout, Co-Founder & MD, BMB Group
• Anurag Agrawal, Managing Director, -Middle East, Canon
• Khaled Antoun, General Manager, Canon Emirates
• Ayman Aly, Senior Marketing Manager, Canon Middle East
• Shadi Bakhour, B2B Business Unit Director, Canon Middle East
• Mohamed Elbahrawy, Technical Support Manager, Canon Middle East
• Thomas Bosse, Head of Programmes, Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence
• Mohamed Ahmed Abu Hamra, Manager, IT Application Management, Information Technology, UAE Region, DP World
• Neil Haskins, General Manager - Middle East, IOActive
• Noor Shawwa, Managing Director, Endeavour UAE
• Vikram Krishna, Executive Vice President, Head of Group Marketing & Customer Experience, Emirates NBD
• Joy Ajlouny, Founder & Creative Director, Fetchr
• Bhanu Shekhar, Chief Digital Officer & Head of Digital Solutions, GE Power
• Dr. Hani Ragab, Associate Professor, Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus
• Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED
• Karim El-Jisr, Executive Director, SEE Nexus Institute
• Lisa Nyman, Director, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, Visa CEMEA
• Michael Gernon, Senior Vice President – Global Head of Innovation, Research and Development, GEMS Education