By Naushad K. Cherrayil / Gulf News
Dubai: The UAE has opened a new accelerator programme for entrepreneurs with a private-public partnership — Mohammad Bin Rashid Innovation Fund Accelerator — aimed at supporting innovators locally and internationally.
The Mohammad Bin Rashid Innovation Fund Accelerator is part of Mohammad Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF), an initiative sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Finance to support local innovators in accessing affordable finance through the provision of a government-backed guarantee.
The fund of Dh2 billion was announced in November 2015 and it now offers two services — providing access to money and access to the accelerator.
The accelerator was inaugurated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance of the UAE, along with Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, and other dignitaries.
“The best ideas and innovations come from places we don’t expect and from the people who may not have the means to turn their innovative ideas into reality. It is our turn to explore now, adopt and support these innovations and provide them with necessary resources to embrace projects that support the development of economic growth,” said Younis Haji Al Khouri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance.
The MBRIF Accelerator will focus on seven sectors such as technology, space, water, energy, education, health and transportation.
Alex Collins, managing director of MBRIF Accelerator, told Gulf News that Ernst & Young will be operating the accelerator on behalf of Ministry of Finance and will be located at Area 2071’s facility at Emirates Towers.
He said that there has been a significant effort to support entrepreneurs and SMEs in the UAE, with about 70 per cent of GDP coming from SMEs, who have employed over 80 per cent of the workforce.
However, he said they still face challenges in accessing finance and further commercialising their ideas and even taking their ideas internationally.
“Our intention is to attract innovators globally and provide them with services they need to succeed in the UAE and abroad. It is a non-profit organisation with no equity stake, no success fee and no membership fee,” he said.
The applications for the first phase will close on February 7, 2019, and the first group of accelerators will begin their one-year membership on April 7.
“The first group we are looking at is innovators within the UAE who have a business and to help them to reach the next stage of growth. The second group is open to global applications and best innovations out there and who are ready to set up a base in the UAE,” Collins said.
“The application form is live online and innovators can apply now. Our target for the first year is between 25 and 30 entrepreneurs and scale up the year after that,” he said.