Dubai’s new engagement program deepens connections with UK thought leaders

Dubai: The Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO) has organized a week-long series of events in the UK focusing on dialogue, knowledge-sharing and networking among decision makers, influencers and thought leaders in the post-COVID and post-Brexit era .

The multi-faceted program was rolled out as part of expanding and deepening Dubai’s network of relationships and stimulating a new dialogue with audiences in the UK. It was also aimed at raising Dubai’s profile among UK stakeholders

Dubai delegation

The Dubai delegation was composed of leaders of government organizations at the forefront of developing its economy and investment, future technologies, financial services, life sciences, healthcare, media and culture and creativity. Leading participants included Hala Badri, director general of Dubai Culture; Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation; Shamsa Saleh, CEO of Dubai Women Establishment; Dr Amer Sharif, CEO, Dubai Academic Health Corporation, and Chair of Dubai COVID-19 Command and Control Centre; Dr. Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director-general of the Dubai Health Authority; Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai FDI; Waleed Saeed Al Awadhi, COO of Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA); Noora Al Abbar, director, International Media, GDMO; Huda Al Hashmi, deputy minister of Cabinet Affairs for Strategic Affairs; Mansoor Abulhoul, ambassador of the UAE to the UK; and Ayesha bin Kalli, manager, International Office, GDMO. British participants in the engagement program included a diverse cross-section of leaders from government, the armed forces, academia, business, culture and media, and business.

Shamza Saleh and Marija Bukovic during roundtable discussion in UK
Image Credit: DMO

The Dubai delegation connected with over 80 UK stakeholders, including the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. Prominent participants from the business sector included Lord Udny Lister, UK co-chair of the UAE-UK Business Council; the deputy mayor of London for Business; Trade Commissioner for the Middle East; representatives from the UK Department for International Trade and Chambers of Commerce; as well as private sector leaders such as Brent Hoberman, co-founder and executive chairman of Founders Factory; Baroness Helena Morrissey DBE, founder of the 30% Club for increasing gender diversity in the boardroom; and Warren East CBE, CEO of Rolls Royce.

Positive partners

GDMO director-general Mona Al Marri said: “The latest Dubai-UK engagement program forms part of the Government of Dubai Media Office’s constant efforts to reinforce Dubai as a positive partner for opportunity in the minds of leaders, influencers and game-changers in strategic markets across the globe. Through rich interactions and dialogue, we seek to raise Dubai’s profile as a welcoming, inclusive and diverse destination that has the vision, ecosystem, and resources to support those looking to tackle humanity’s biggest challenges.

“The program has opened up many new avenues for Dubai to promote meaningful engagement with the UK, not only at the level of governments and public and business sectors, but also between our media, sports, life sciences, cultural and creative communities and broader civil society. We look forward to turning key elements of this engagement into an annual program,” she added.

Badri noted: “Dubai is an incubator for creativity, and home to a dynamic, resilient and thriving cultural community, which we are proud to promote globally. Having an open and ongoing dialogue with our UK partners about how the cultural sector can navigate the challenges of the future will contribute to the realization of our vision as we continue to cement Dubai’s position as a global hub for arts, sports and culture.”

entrepreneurial spirit

Belhoul said: “The entrepreneurial spirit we experienced during our engagement program gave us and our UK hosts a wonderful platform to share successes and learnings, especially in the tech space. The UAE and the UK both offer strong blueprints for developing a flourishing, future-ready tech ecosystem, and by working together, we can continue to play our parts in shaping the future of innovation.”

Saleh noted: “Gender equality is a global issue, and we seek to draw from best practices from around the world to create a better society. This engagement program was a fantastic opportunity for female changemakers from Dubai and the UK to build new alliances, share learnings and focus our efforts on female empowerment.”

Approach to innovation

Dr. Sharif noted: “During our visit to the Norwich Research Park, we had the pleasure of hearing about the UK’s approach to innovation in the life sciences, health and tech sectors. The exchange of ideas, knowledge and expertise has undoubtedly deepened our relationship with the UK across these industries. With so much multidisciplinary expertise working to a shared vision, the future looks bright.”

Dr. Alsheikh-Ali added: “There is an immense concentration of talented scientists and researchers in the Norwich Research Park. Meeting these world-leading thinkers, all of whom are tackling the biggest medical and technical challenges facing humanity, has inspired us to pursue an even deeper level of partnership with the UK and the region. I admire their commitment to scientific advancement and look forward to a rich and productive future for collaboration.”

Jeremy Chivers, HE Huda Al Hashimi and Louise Gardner (2)-1656606813261

Jeremy Chivers, Huda Al Hashmi and Louise Gardner during a session as part of the Dubai-UK dialogue
Image Credit: DMO

FDI flows

Al Gergawi commented: “FDI (foreign direct investments) flows between the UK and the UAE continue to drive growth for both countries across a range of sectors. Visiting the UK and meeting with business leaders and the international investor community was an important way for us to discuss how to further enhance Dubai’s attractiveness as a leading destination for FDI globally and regionally.”

Al Awadhi said: “Our trade and investment relationship with the UK is very healthy, and this engagement program has helped us to deepen our commercial and cultural ties.

Rich insights

Al Abbar said: “The engagement program saw incisive discussions and a rich exchange of insights on how Dubai and the UK can work together to generate fresh growth opportunities while effectively navigating a world in flux. The meetings generated many invaluable perspectives on how both sides can further transform their cooperation across a wide-spectrum of sectors and continue to revitalize the dynamic connections that have been shaped over the course of their enduring historic relationship.

Al Hashimi added: “During our visit to the UK, we met with many talented policymakers, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs, all of whom were committed to driving innovation across the public and private sectors. From life sciences to financial services, creative intelligence and strategic innovation were at the forefront of every conversation, meeting and workshop we had, and we look forward to applying our learnings in the UAE.”

HE Hala Badri and Tobi Ajala-1656606817181

Hala Badri and Tobi Ajala during the UK dialogue event
Image Credit: DMO

Sectors in focus

With a focus on three cross-cutting and mutually reinforcing sectors: global citizenship; life sciences (covering including medicine, artificial intelligence (AI), fintech, trade, energy and climate); and well-being (including health, lifestyle, tourism, sports, creativity and entertainment), the engagement program sought to reposition Dubai in the minds of UK policy makers, thought leaders, educators, innovators, investors and consumers.

The program is expected to contribute to further expanding trade and investment ties between Dubai and the UK. According to ‘Dubai FDI Monitor’, the UK was the leading source country for FDI to Dubai in 2021 with a 27 per cent share of the total. The UK was also the second largest source country for FDI projects in 2021, with 18 per cent. The UAE is a key market for Britain’s expanding trade ambitions in the post-Brexit phase, with the UK aiming to double the number of businesses exporting goods and services across the world.

changing world

The engagement program organized by GDMO kicked off in London with a ‘Sports and Culture Roundtable’ featuring an informal dialogue with leading thinkers, planners and managers from UK’s sports and culture sectors, including Lord Tony Hall CBE, former Director General of the BBC and Skindar Hundal MBE, director of Arts for The British Council. Discussions focused on strengthening Dubai-UK sports and culture networks, and examining opportunities for strategic cooperation. The Dubai delegation shared the emirate’s strategic vision to consolidate its emergence as a global hub for both culture and sports.

The visiting delegation was introduced to current and former senior members of the UK establishment from government, diplomacy, defense and parliament. The program also featured an informal engagement with British female entrepreneurs and activists during which the delegation shared Dubai’s remarkable gender balance successes.

Future of technology

Another key event of the UK engagement program was ‘The Techathon’, moderated by Oli Barrett MBE, serial entrepreneur and presenter. The Techathon featured panel discussions featuring tech leaders, emerging tech entrepreneurs, and tech learners from London and Dubai and showcased tech success stories from both Dubai and London. Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, delivered a TED Talk titled ‘Reshape Tomorrow’ in which he set out Dubai’s vision for the future of technology. The delegation shared Dubai’s value proposition as a platform for young and emerging tech entrepreneurs to launch ambitious ventures.

The Dubai delegation visited a number of locations along the Cambridge-Norwich Tech Corridor, home to many of the UK’s world-leading life science research institutions. A series of events at the Norwich Research Park offered Dubai the opportunity to showcase the city’s technology and innovation ecosystems and share its success in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dubai delegation also visited the University of Oxford, to participate in a communications training workshop that formed part of the Government of Dubai Media Office’s strategic learning platform for senior government leaders.

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