The SME Guide to Dubai Expo 2020

The SME Guide to Dubai Expo 2020 

By: Mark Anthony Karam

Here's everything an SME entrepreneur needs to know before attending Expo 2020.

‘The World’s Greatest Show’ has kicked off, after a major setback last year in the form of COVID-19. Nevertheless, Expo 2020 is finally here, and SMEs have limitless opportunities ahead of them. 

Here’s how you can make the best out of your Expo 2020 experience.

Download the Expo 2020 Business App

To cater to their business visitors, Expo 2020 has created the Thrive Together programme (also known as the Expo's Business Programme), which offers a range of curated events and tailored products and services for businesses of all sizes, from home-grown UAE-based businesses looking to expand, budding entrepreneurs eager to share ideas and build their network, or overseas companies entering the region for the first time.  

As part of this initiative, an Expo 2020 Business App was created, which is the designated official business platform that will facilitate your business connections (both B2B and B2G) during the event, and act as the central hub for all your activities there.

The platform suggests potential tailor-made business matches for users using AI-powered technology based on their profiles and objectives, so you can smoothly connect with potential business partners and relevant exhibitors.

The app will help optimize the visit of business visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai through pre-arranged engagements and access to a comprehensive business network on the platform.

An upgrade to a Premium Account ($3) is available, netting you unlimited access to Expo 2020 visitors and allowing you to connect with other visitors via video call. The subscription also allows you to export your new list of contacts as an Excel sheet for later use, among other features.

Consider the premium ‘business’ ticket

An enhanced ticket package has been created with business-focused visitors in mind. 

The Premium Experience Season Pass will offer additional opportunities for networking and add-on services to assure a seamless visitor experience, including complimentary enhanced access to the Expo B2B App, a dedicated concierge, entry to an exclusive Premium Lounge, priority access to a number of networking and thought leadership events, including the ten Thematic Business Forums, guided tours and F&B discounts. 

Priced at AED 1,750, the Premium Experience ticket allows unlimited visits across the six months of the event, including fast track entry. You can purchase it here.

Visit the Business Connect Centre

The Expo 2020 Business Connect Centre is a dedicated space, adjacent to Al Wasl Plaza at the heart of the Expo site, housing Chambers of Commerce and trade entities from across the region, representing more than one million companies, as well as investment houses and venture capitalists. 

It will also enable a number of International Participants to host meetings and networking events, workshops and other business sessions

Sign up for events using the Business Calendar

Network, network, network: your priority as an entrepreneur at any event is always to network, so imagine the opportunities ahead of you in a World Expo that has gathered 192 countries in one location and will witness over 25 million visitors.

Keep up to date with ongoing and upcoming events on the Business Calendar here and make sure to sign up to any that are of interest - you never know what you’ll find, or who you’ll meet. Investor pitch meetings and workshops abound, so take part.

There are plenty of event categories and genres to choose from, including but limited to: Business and Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology, Mobility, Opportunity, Sustainability, and more.

You can also find more curated events dubbed Thematic Business Forums taking place throughout the whole event:


Thematic Business Forum Date
Space Business Forum 19 October 2021
Urban & Rural Development Business Forum 1 November 2021
Tolerance & Inclusivity Business Forum 16 November 2021
Knowledge & Learning Business Forum 14 December 2021
Travel & Connectivity Business Forum 11 January 2022
Global Goals Business Forum 18 January 2022
Health & Wellness Business Forum 1 February 2022
Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Business Forum 21 February 2022
Water Business Forum 22 March 2022


Ask about the UAE Start-up Ecosystem Toolkit

The toolkit is a comprehensive guide to the UAE’s unique start-up ecosystem, including funding opportunities and organisations, created specifically for overseas businesses looking to enter the market.

Become a supplier 

If you’re looking to be a supplier that’s seeking to compete for tender opportunities with Expo 2020 Dubai, you should complete the Supplier Request form, which you can find here with additional information. There are over 25,000 companies already registered, including many SMEs.

You must provide your basic company information, and be sure to select the business categories aligned with your company’s offerings and capabilities.

Once approved, you will be invited to participate in opportunities with Expo 2020 Dubai that match the business categories you selected. 

Unwind with good food and music

While Expo 2020 is a business event of massive proportions, it is also a cultural phenomenon, bringing together snippets from the world’s collective art, cuisine, and traditions in one place. Make sure not to miss out on the various entertainment and touristic activities available. If you’re adamant about keeping it business-only, remember that inspiration does come from the least expected places, after all. So, let loose a bit.

Looking beyond to District 2020

When Expo 2020 eventually ends on March 31, 2022, 80% of the original venue (438-hectare area/1083 acres) will be transformed over nine months into a new smart city dubbed District 2020 centred on the needs of its urban community. It will provide a curated innovation-driven business ecosystem that brings together global minds and embraces technology and digital innovation to support industry growth.

Fuelled by cross-industry collaboration, District 2020 will contribute to the growth of Dubai’s innovation economy through a focus on four key growth industries and disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, and blockchain.

As an entrepeneur, you can join the District 2020 project through the Scale2Dubai initiative, which is looking to attract start-ups and SMEs, mainly those in Series A or Seed stage, that align with District 2020’s sectors of focus. 

As an integral part of its ecosystem, Scale2Dubai is currently accepting applications and offers startups and small businesses the best opportunities for success through a series of unique benefits that help those accepted into the community with a ‘soft landing’ in Dubai. Each year, the equity-free programme will support between 80 to 100 of these businesses, with the first group due to be selected during the final weeks of Expo 2020 Dubai.

The programme will offer successful applicants two years of free workspace, business setup support and guidance needed to scale up, while also providing access to funding, deal flow, networking opportunities and connections with big-name global players. 

You might also like