How does ADIO enable opportunities for domestic and foreign investors in Abu Dhabi?
ADIO is the government hub enabling investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi. Our role is to help companies set up for long-term success and to understand the opportunities the Abu Dhabi market has to offer. We connect investors with relevant stakeholders in Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem, bringing together the right partnerships to help them grow and expand in the emirate, while setting them up for regional growth opportunities.
We support companies through our Investor Care services that assist investors with information on data, networks, licensing, real estate, visas, banking and more. We also provide financial and non-financial incentives to eligible companies through our AED 2 billion Innovation Programme to help them expand to Abu Dhabi. Additionally, ADIO recently established eight international offices to facilitate better support for investors in those markets and introduce them to the advantages of expanding to the emirate.
The UAE continues to dominate in the region in terms of funding secured for startups. What makes the UAE, and Abu Dhabi specifically, such an enticing location for these companies?
Some of the key advantages of Abu Dhabi as an investment destination include our strategic location, access to talent, liveability, cutting-edge infrastructure, connectivity and ease of doing business.
Building on this, Abu Dhabi is focused on developing an innovation hub and supporting like-minded companies to establish here. The emirate has invested capital, time, effort, knowledge and resources into building an ecosystem where businesses of all sizes can confidently take commercial risks to innovate and develop cutting-edge solutions.
Across the ecosystem, Abu Dhabi offers a range of support and incentives to help businesses from around the world succeed in the emirate. Startups can access financial support through grants and rebates from ADIO through the Innovation Programme, which provides incentives to innovation-focused companies in high-growth areas. Companies may also access equity investments through ecosystem players such as Mubadala and ADQ through its DisruptAD platform.
Financial support is but one facet of a much bigger investment by the government that includes fostering a talent pool, establishing research universities, building integrated ICT infrastructure and creating an enabling business environment that makes Abu Dhabi one of the best places to do business globally.
What can be done to bring in more international VC & PE funds into the Abu Dhabi ecosystem?
Abu Dhabi is actively building our own capital market by attracting the right funders and founders to the ecosystem. We attract asset managers and international investors to establish local offices here to provide financing, alternative expansion plans and exit options for startups.
The emirate simultaneously nurtures and sows into regional founders, providing an opportunity for international investors to tap into a competitive pool of young and ambitious talent, and a growing ecosystem at reasonable valuations compared to other global hubs.
To attract both funders and founders, tremendous effort has been put into supporting the growth and development of the emirate as a global investment hub over the past few years. Abu Dhabi provides enabling regulatory frameworks and a legal environment that promotes sustainable business growth across the wider region, such as through the Abu Dhabi Global Market’s regulations and court system. Abu Dhabi stresses world-class corporate governance to make local firms investable for global investors. The emirate also provides a broad range of business activities and legal structures that improve direct access to the market and increase ease of doing business.
ADIO recently launched an AED 2 billion Innovation Programme, as part of Ghadan 21, to foster innovation in Abu Dhabi's high-growth sectors. What will this Programme’s first strategic actions be?
ADIO’s Innovation Programme builds on the success of the AgTech incentive programme to include support for innovative companies in other high-growth areas, including financial services, ICT, health services and biopharma, tourism and AgTech, among others. It has an increased incentive pool totalling AED 2 billion to accelerate opportunities for investors in the emirate. The programme reinforces Abu Dhabi’s efforts to invest in high-growth areas while supporting businesses and ideas that drive positive impact.
The Innovation Programme offers companies globally competitive rebates and grants, in addition to other non-financial incentives, to support their investment journey in Abu Dhabi. The expanded programme will create thousands of high-skilled jobs, drive innovation in key sectors and spur the development of impactful solutions that have the potential to be beneficial to the region and across the globe.
Thus far, ADIO has partnered with seven local and international AgTech companies as part of the programme. ADIO is supporting them in developing cutting-edge technologies that can contribute to expanding the supply of local produce and addressing global food security challenges. We have also partnered with ICT leaders Anghami and Bespin, helping them to establish their respective headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
We will continue to work closely with innovators developing impactful solutions and technologies in the emirate, helping them achieve long-term, sustainable success.
Nurturing the AgTech Sector
As part of its Innovation Programme, ADIO has provided incentives to a number of AgTech startups to support their growth in Abu Dhabi.
Locally, it has supported AgTech firms like Pure Harvest and Madar Farms, providing them with grants and rebates to build R&D and production facilities. Pure Harvest will invest in smart farming and infrastructure technologies at its new farms, while Madar Farms will build the world’s first commercial-scale indoor tomato farm using only LED lights in KIZAD.
Nanoracks is building the first-ever commercial AgTech space research programme in Abu Dhabi, while AeroFarms is building the world’s largest R&D indoor vertical farm.
How has the Abu Dhabi investment landscape changed in the wake of COVID-19, and what is being done to mitigate the pandemic’s effects?
The global economic slowdown has affected the business and investment sentiment worldwide. We are seeing a more subdued business environment. However, the Abu Dhabi economy is built on solid foundations and is poised for recovery. According to the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the emirate’s economy could grow up to 8% over the next two years, bolstered by the crude oil sector, government spending and FDIs.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the Abu Dhabi government was swift in announcing relief measures under the Ghadan 21 accelerator programme to bolster Abu Dhabi’s economy and support the business community. Other business and government entities across the emirate also pitched in, launching support initiatives to minimise the impact on businesses. For this, Abu Dhabi was ranked the safest city in the world for our response to the COVID-19 pandemic by Deep Knowledge Group.
ADIO saw an increase in interest from companies all around the world, due in large part to how the Abu Dhabi government’s handling of COVID-19 was viewed by the global business community. It sent a strong signal to the world that Abu Dhabi is serious about protecting people and supporting the private sector. ADIO has continued, remotely, aiding businesses looking to establish or grow in Abu Dhabi, connecting them to the right partners and ensuring they receive the support they need to grow during this time.
What are the next key steps that will be essential to the evolution of Abu Dhabi as the place to do business?
Abu Dhabi is looking to build a modern, diversified and sustainable economy with innovation at its heart. The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is the government’s long-term plan for the transformation of the emirate's economy, including a reduced reliance on the oil sector and a greater focus on knowledge-based industries in the future.
Much has been done to make Abu Dhabi a welcoming and supportive environment for business to thrive. Our business-friendly environment is supported by a favourable tax regime, established infrastructure and financial and political stability. The government has also established numerous business enablement entities to support companies at every step of their journey.
Public engagement is crucial to build Abu Dhabi’s future collaboratively. H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2021 the ‘Year of the 50th' in the UAE to celebrate the nation’s milestone Golden Jubilee while inviting the public to co-create the UAE’s future as it continues to shape new frontiers. ADIO will continue engaging businesses and investors to better understand their needs and ensure we are providing relevant support to help them make their ideas a reality.
Director General H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi shares insights on how ADIO enables opportunities for domestic and foreign investors locally, and how Abu Dhabi is evolving as a place to do business.
Learn more about the Abu Dhabi Investment Office by visiting its website: https://investinabudhabi.gov.ae/