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District 2020 and GCC to boost growth of regional start-ups


District 2020 has signed a partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that will see the two entities providing support to start-ups across the region through District 2020’s Scale2Dubai global entrepreneur programme.

The agreement was recently signed by Dr Nayef Falah M AlHajraf, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai.

The alliance underlines the commitment of District 2020 – the future of Expo 2020 Dubai that will evolve into a human-centric smart community and a global innovation ecosystem – to supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in the UAE and across the GCC region.

Dr Nayef Falah M AlHajraf, said: “This is an important and strategic collaboration for the GCC’s present and future, as we commit to working alongside partners like District 2020. The fact that start-ups and small businesses contribute significantly to the GCC’s GDP is well known, meaning such companies are crucial to creating sustainable economic progress in the future.

“Together with District 2020, we will stimulate the growth potential of the region and enable a start-up ecosystem to flourish. We will do this by identifying the most promising companies and giving them District 2020 as a platform. Here, they will be exposed to collaborative innovation across key industries and technologies, which will in turn stimulate job creation and drive competition in the wider economy.”

The agreement signifies the strong alignment between District 2020’s mandate to support the local and regional start-up ecosystem, and the mission of the GCC to promote economic, security, cultural and social cooperation among the Arabian Gulf states.

It recognises the pivotal role of start-ups and small businesses in driving transformative, innovation-led ideas and growth. As part of ongoing efforts to diversify their economies, Gulf nations are looking to entrepreneurs and innovators to develop new sectors and approaches, and supplement government initiatives through a sustainable and shared vision.

Reem Al Hashimy said: “Building partnerships that will reinvigorate economies, fuel prosperity and create better lives for people across the UAE, the region, and the world is Expo 2020’s mission.

“This pivotal alliance between District 2020 and the GCC will foster entrepreneurship and give start-ups and small businesses the opportunity to realise their full potential in a supportive, connecting ecosystem – a powerful launchpad for growth and a demonstration of Expo’s meaningful, long-term legacy.”

District 2020 is bringing together regional and global entities comprising Fortune 500 companies, SMEs, start-ups, academic institutes, labs, accelerators, and venture capitalists to curate an ecosystem that is focused on spurring innovation.

Through this partnership, the GCC will support in identifying and channelling to its Scale2Dubai programme a pipeline of high-potential start-ups and small businesses that are aligned with District 2020’s ecosystem focus areas.

Scale2Dubai is designed to facilitate a soft landing within Dubai through an easy set up within District 2020’s ecosystem and aims to help start-ups and small businesses overcome the most challenging aspect of growth: scaling.

Each year, the equity-free programme is expected to support between 80 and 100 of these businesses, with the first cohort being selected during Expo 2020 Dubai.

It 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 such as Siemens, DP World, and Terminus Technologies.

District 2020 will actively facilitate opportunities for cross-industry collaboration between these large and small businesses, driving mutually beneficial exchange and providing a launchpad from which to access the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region (MEASA) and global markets.

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 will follow, with the first cohort of 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 begins its phased opening by October 2022.

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