Exclusive: Plug and Play Abu Dhabi sheds light on its upcoming Industry 4.0 Open Innovation Platform

Exclusive: Plug and Play Abu Dhabi sheds light on its upcoming Industry 4.0 Open Innovation Platform 

By: Mark Anthony Karam

The first-of-its-kind platform has been designed to boost Abu Dhabi’s industrial innovation capabilities and attract high-calibre tech startups to the emirate.

Plug and Play is set to launch a first-of-its-kind Industry 4.0 open innovation platform in Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO).

As part of the platform, key industry stakeholders and thought leaders from across Plug and Play Abu Dhabi's ecosystem will define tech challenges and innovation bottlenecks to be solved by startups as part of accelerator programmes and bespoke challenges. Plug and Play Abu Dhabi will also help to accelerate deployment of innovative pilots, tech integrations and new products.

The first-of-its-kind platform has been designed to boost Abu Dhabi’s industrial innovation capabilities and attract high-calibre tech startups to the emirate. It seeks to establish a stronger, unified marketplace and forum to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange across major industrial entities and exceptional technology startups, bringing real value and solutions in areas such as Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing, Storage, Telecommunications, Maintenance, Mobility, Logistics, Energy, Construction and Real Estate. 

The Abu Dhabi SME Hub spoke with Youssouf Kamal, Industry 4.0 Program Manager at Plug and Play, to learn more about the organization's latest initiative in Abu Dhabi.

Youssouf Kamal plug and play abu dhabi

Who are the different industry stakeholders & thought leaders selected by Plug and Play Abu Dhabi for this open innovation program, and on what basis and criteria were they selected?

The identity of the entities that Plug and Play is partnering with for the Industry 4.0 open innovation platform will be revealed in the coming weeks. However, I can tell you that this platform will welcome Abu Dhabi’s leading corporations, investors, academia and government entities. The corporate partners we have selected are thought leaders that operate in various sectors such as Supply Chain, Logistics, Manufacturing, Energy, AgTech, and Mobility, and are among the most innovative organizations in Abu Dhabi. 

To achieve the objectives that we have set with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, we need to operate our model at scale. And for the model to operate at scale, we need corporate partners that have the right internal strategic alignment and resources. This is why we have selected our partners based on a thorough understanding of their vision, strategy, governance structure, processes, human capital, technological maturity and size.

These entities are at the forefront of innovation in Abu Dhabi following the vision of the leadership of the emirate.

What kind of local gaps and industry challenges will this innovation program be addressing through this upcoming Industry 4.0 open innovation platform?

We have been working since early April 2021 with several Abu Dhabi entities to identify, understand and map the different challenges and opportunities that are common to the variety of sectors that we are addressing through this program. The results of this work made it clear that, although these stakeholders operate in different sectors, they share the same technological challenges and opportunities. 

To gain competitive advantages in their respective sectors, corporations today will need technologies that are automated, connected and intelligent. And our partners are very much aware of this. Innovation areas such as warehouse and factory automation, demand planning, predictive analytics, predictive maintenance, energy efficiency, autonomous transport, safety technologies, new materials and packaging, and many more, will therefore be addressed through this program.

Important to the success of this program, is the ability for the Plug and Play teams to act as an extension of the innovation teams of our partners, which in return will support them in enhancing their innovation capabilities, and successfully engaging with the cross-organizational network that we have. This is how we will be able to multiply corporate-startup collaborations, that are central to building a strong innovation ecosystem.  



What is the process for open innovation and how will participating startups collaborate with local stakeholders? Additionally, how will the program be structured in light of COVID restrictions and mobility challenges?

There are many phases in open innovation, but the most important one is identifying the tech challenges that need to be addressed and prioritized by local stakeholders, and the prerequisites that need to be met for collaboration to take place. For this reason, we work closely with our partners’ business units to understand their challenges, the budgets they are ready to allocate to solve them, the growth stage of the startups they are ready to work with, their origin, and many other criteria, to make sure that the startups we source, perfectly fit the needs of our partners.

Once we have a good understanding of these parameters, we leverage our network of more than 500 startup scouts, scattered across more than 40 offices around the world, to find the best fit startups for the program. We then directly outreach to them and invite them to join a selection day, during which they pitch their solutions, and our partners vote for the ones they would like to see in the program.

During the program, the Plug and Play team will facilitate meetings between local stakeholders and startups, and work with both parties to identify the right partnership model that suits both sides.

Now, since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Plug and Play has harnessed the power of virtual interactions, running seamless programs leveraging different types of technologies. The safety of everyone being our priority, this program will also be held virtually, as per our high standards of quality. 

plug and play abu dhabi

What kind of support and incentives will Plug and Play Abu Dhabi be providing to entrepreneurs through this program? What do they stand to gain?

On top of the business and fundraising opportunities that this program will provide to the participating entrepreneurs, we will support them to navigate the local landscape through a set of bespoke workshops around topics such as legal environment, business setup, market overview, business etiquette, government incentive schemes, and much more. 

Plug and Play will also act as a bridge between the startups and different government entities, such as ADIO and Hub71, that can support them to establish in Abu Dhabi through their different incentive schemes and support services. 

In addition to all of that, Plug and Play offers free or discounted access to a wide range of services and perks from more than 25 global partners.

Why was ADIO the right partner for this particular initiative?

Plug and Play’s partnership with ADIO has been instrumental in the launch of this initiative, which is a direct manifestation of ADIO’s goal to attract the most innovative companies to Abu Dhabi, in sectors such as Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy, and others. This initiative complements their Innovation Programme, which consists of a set of bespoke financial and non-financial incentives aiming to support the establishment of innovative companies in the emirate. Without the support of ADIO, this initiative would not have been possible, and at Plug and Play we are proud and honoured to be working hand in hand with such a forward-looking entity.

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