District 2020: Curating a Global Innovation Ecosystem as the Future of Expo 2020 Dubai

The future of Expo 2020 will support the growth of the UAE’s innovation economy by curating a global innovation-driven business ecosystem that embraces technology and a human-centric focus, and brings together UAE, regional and global players

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 24 February 2021 – District 2020, as the human-centric smart city evolving from Expo 2020 Dubai, has announced a number of key partnerships that will contribute to the curation of its innovation ecosystem and its start-up community, coinciding with the annual UAE Innovation week known as UAE Innovates 2021.  During the nation-wide event, District 2020 is marking its contribution to driving innovation in the UAE and to supporting the UAE’s aim to be the most innovative and future-ready nation in the world.

District 2020 is bringing together global entities comprising of Fortune 500 companies, SMEs, Startups, Academic Institutes, Labs, Accelerators & VCs to actively curate the business ecosystem that will focus on spurring innovation.  As a human-centred smart community, it is supported by the latest 5G connectivity, and advanced technologies such as IoT, an urban lab, and an environment designed to meet the needs of the businesses and people who will live, work and play there. It will facilitate collaboration and enable businesses large and small to test and pilot ideas and solutions that will positively advance their industries.

In addition to major global tenants including German giant Siemens, Shanghai-based Terminus Technologies, and DP World, District 2020 has announced new local and international alliances with start-up enabling entities from the UAE and from across international markets, including the USA, UK, Namibia, Slovenia, Malaysia, and Botswana. These latest partners will feed District 2020’s global entrepreneur programme, Scale2Dubai, with a pipeline of eligible international start-ups and small businesses creating a network of local, regional and international start-ups at the heart of the innovation ecosystem.1

District 2020’s Scale2Dubai programme has been designed to give high-potential start-ups and small businesses the on-ground support to establish themselves in the UAE within District 2020, as a launchpad from which to access Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) and global markets. Scale2Dubai is an equity-free programme & its benefits include two years of free working space, a two-year visa, business set-up support, access to special rates from service providers, access to social and networking events, and more.

Through its human-centred approach and infrastructure design, District 2020 is carefully curating an ecosystem that will prioritise the needs of these businesses and the future workforce in a rapidly evolving global landscape and post-pandemic world. By inheriting from Expo 2020 Dubai one of the most well-connected sites with advanced connectivity and ICT infrastructure, District 2020 will integrate innovative applications of the latest smart technologies — such as IoT — to address challenges, and improve services enabling the community to function both smarter and more sustainably.  This will be supported by District 2020’s urban lab, an open data platform and test bed for entities to test their solutions to urban challenges in a live urban environment.

District 2020’s unique human-centric physical environment – which re-purposes 80% of the Expo 2020 event infrastructure and iconic structures – has also been designed to fuel the collaboration and the spaces that will enable innovation to thrive. As a fully integrated and human-scale community with pedestrianised neighbourhoods that combine flexible offices, modern residences, parks, retail, leisure, F&B and events, it will foster connection, a sense of community and balance. It will cater to the needs of the future workplace and different sized innovation-driven businesses who are increasingly seeking flexibility and prioritizing health and wellness. Ultimately, District 2020 is curating a progressive environment that aims to enable diverse businesses and people to connect, innovate and flourish.

Tala Al Ansari, Director, Innovation Ecosystem & Scale2Dubai Programme, District 2020, said:

“We are designing an innovation ecosystem and community that will enable businesses at District 2020 to realise their potential. We understand how challenging it is for most businesses to scale in new markets. By studying the challenges faced by start-ups and small businesses, we designed the Scale2Dubai programme to specifically address their needs and support them in their journey. Through our engagement with Scale2Dubai partners who possess vast entrepreneur networks, we are building a global innovation ecosystem and attracting businesses who will become valuable contributors to the growth of the UAE start-up ecosystem and innovation economy”.

Sameer Sortur, Managing Director, The Founder Institute – UAE, commented: “Our collaboration with District 2020 is a smart move for our organisation and the global tech start-ups we support. The Founder Institute and District 2020 share an appreciation for the challenges facing growing businesses, but also the massive, industry-changing potential waiting to be unlocked when these challenges are overcome. We look forward to recommending our most exciting global founders and start-ups to District 2020, where Scale2Dubai will provide them with the necessary support to flourish in a new market – Dubai, the UAE, and the MEASA region.”

And Dr Racious Moatshe, Chief Executive Officer of Botswana’s Local Enterprise Authority said: “This strategic partnership with District 2020’s Scale2Dubai programme fully supports our mandate, which is the development of an innovative, competitive and sustainable SMME (small, micro and medium enterprise) sector in Botswana. We are grateful to this initiative, as it offers capacity development and market access opportunities to accelerate enterprise growth. LEA will ensure the successful implementation of this programme through the provision of targeted interventions and support for Botswana SMMEs to produce products and services for the Dubai market. We look forward to this impactful collaboration as it has the potential to change the SMME sector landscape and propel economic growth and diversification.”

The Scale2Dubai programme is currently accepting expressions of interest from local, regional and international start-ups through the District 2020 website: www.district2020.ae/scale2dubai. The application and short-listing process for Scale2Dubai will open in September 2021, with successful applicants announced during the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai. Those chosen to be part of the programme will be able to move into their workspaces at District 2020 shortly after Expo 2020 closes, when District 2020 opens by October 2022.

The application and short-listing process for Scale2Dubai will follow in September 2021, with successful applicants announced during Expo 2020 Dubai. Those chosen to be part of the programme will be able to move into their workspaces at District 2020 shortly after Expo 2020 Dubai closes and District 2020 opens by October 2022.

Having successfully established partnerships with influential local and regional entities such as Dubai SME, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund since its launch, Scale2Dubai has been open to collaborating with other chambers, SME authorities, ministries, accelerators and incubators of varying scale. Interested parties can contact District 2020 through Scale2Dubaipartner@district2020.ae.

About District 2020

District 2020 will evolve from Expo 2020 as a human-centric smart city and mixed-use community with a mandate to support the UAE’s innovation-driven economy. When Expo 2020 comes to an end in March 2022, District 2020 will repurpose 80% of the site’s-built environment to create an innovation ecosystem and a smart urban environment underpinned by technology, which aims to support the future of working and living.

District 2020 will contribute to the UAE’s vision for sustainable economic development by curating an innovation ecosystem that encourages cross-industry collaboration between high growth sectors enabled by advanced technologies, such as internet of things, artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain.

Located in a central growth corridor in Dubai South, District 2020 will attract Fortune 500 companies, budding young enterprises, families, and individuals, to live and work in a community that promotes balance and well-being and is designed to provide a harmonious combination of convenience, connection and community.

District 2020 is integrated community, with purpose-built smart infrastructure that combines contemporary office spaces and residences, education and cultural facilities, entertainment venues, and a range of iconic attractions. Through its physical and digital infrastructure, District 2020 will be a place for people and businesses to Connect. Create. Innovate.

  • 80% of the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be re-purposed, retaining its iconic structures including Al Wasl Plaza, the Sustainability Pavilion (which will become a Children and Science Centre), Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC), and three main neighbourhoods, in addition to the cutting-edge digital and physical infrastructure
  • District 2020 will retain more than 260,000 sqm of GFA of LEED-certified structures from Expo 2020 Dubai. These will be transitioned into residential, commercial, and cultural neighbourhoods
  • Located within Dubai South, near Al Maktoum International Airport, District 2020 is ideally connected and easily accessible from all of the UAE’s air and seaports
  • District 2020 will be home to Expo 2020’s Official Premier Partners: Siemens, which will establish its global logistics HQ and its newly spun-off Siemens Energy; DP World will repurpose its DP World Flow Pavilion into its global hub to ensure trade through education and innovation; and Terminus Technologies, which will establish its Middle East headquarters for AIoT and a Research and Development Centre.
  • It will be a holistic community with several neighbourhoods made up of multi-use residential, commercial, and green open spaces, world-class social and cultural attractions, education facilities along with a varied hospitality, retail and F&B offering
  • A connected and tech-enabled urban community, District 2020 will have advanced digital connectivity through its adoption of 5G technology, IoT and other smart systems and technologies
  • District 2020 will be ready for occupancy by October 2022 following a six- to nine-month-period of re-purposing and phased transition from Expo 2020
  • The development will grow over phases, and at full capacity will be home to 145,000 residents and workers

For more information, please visit www.district2020.ae. Stay connected through LinkedIn, Instagram or YouTube for more on District 2020 developments.

About Scale2Dubai’s six new partners:

The Founder Institute is an American business incubator, entrepreneur training and start-up launch programme founded in California in 2009. It maintains chapters in over 180 cities and more than 65 different nations across the globe.

The British Centres for Business is a business-to-business professional services company established with the mandate to provide operational support and market entry services to UK companies in the Middle East. The BCB is a certified incubator within the Dubai SME accredited network.  In the last 5 years the BCB has supported over 400 UK companies setting up and doing business in the UAE, generating more than AED 400m in new business.

Namibia’s Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade is a division of the Namibian government that works to create and sustain a conducive business environment through value addition, enterprise development, market access and investment promotion to benefit all Namibian enterprises.

The Slovene Fund (SEF) is a Slovenian public financial fund, providing financial support to Slovenian small, micro, and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs). It aims to provide favourable guarantee, credit and equity lines for the growth and development of SMMEs and start-up lines for new enterprises.

The Local Enterprise Authority is a Botswana-based Government institution established to promote entrepreneurship and SMME development by providing business development and support services to accelerate business growth. LEA offers targeted capacity development interventions that include business advisory and business plans development, technical and business management training, coaching and mentoring services, business incubation, market access facilitation, technology and Innovation support.

Malaysia Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) discovers and empowers technology startups and social innovators through creativity, innovation and technology adoption, and develops a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem in Malaysia. Since its inception in 2014, MaGIC has provided its community of start-ups, investors and ecosystem players with capacity building programmes, market & funding opportunities and regulatory assistance that impacted more than 100,000 aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs with an overall value creation of RM1.9 billion. As an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), MaGIC facilitates, navigates and enables the ecosystem with the mission of strengthening Malaysia’s position as an emerging innovation nation.

MAGNiTT founded by Philip Bahoshy, is the largest online community for startups across the MENA region. Based out of Dubai, UAE, MAGNiTT connects entrepreneurs directly with ecosystem stakeholders including funders, mentors, support services, and talent. Transparency is core to the MAGNiTT offering. MAGNiTT creates monthly research reports for subscribers to track industry trends and access insights on the MENA startup ecosystem.