Sep 19, 2016 | By Alec

The Emirate of Dubai is rapidly becoming synonymous with 3D printing, as the city state is turning its considerable wealth towards sponsoring high-tech enterprises, innovations and pioneering technology. Earlier in the year, the country unveiled their own Dubai 3D Printing Strategy, which aims to make the country the 3D printing capital of the world by 2030. This innovative drive is now further supported by the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program, which launched during the summer. A massive 2,274 applications arrived from all over the world, and just 30 (including construction 3D printing innovator Construction Robotics) were chosen for a twelve week testing and pioneering program.

3D printing is just one of the disrupting technologies that the DFA program (an initiative from the Dubai Future Foundation) was looking for. Aiming to revolutionize seven key sectors of society, including health, construction and energy, the program launched to bring some of the world’s most innovative developers to Dubai. “Now that we have concluded the selection phase of the Dubai Future Accelerators program, we can go ahead with the actual testing stage for the innovative solutions in cooperation with the relevant authorities,” CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation Saif Al Aleeli revealed.

This isn’t a one-off event either, as the DFA has been set up to house three rounds of innovators every year - covered by three month periods. The initiative will provide training programs for the selected startups to learn about business development, prototyping and the setting up of pilot programs in Dubai. By the end of the twelve week period, participants are given the tools to set up a profitable business model in collaboration with relevant government entities and global experts. Funds come from the Waqf’s $275m ‘Future Fund’. “Through this initiative, the UAE is seeking to redefine the international role of business accelerators,” said His Excellency Mohammed Al Gergawi, managing director of Dubai Future Foundation.

But when looking at the list of thirty finalists (less than 2 percent of the total 2,274 applications), it’s clear that Dubai is looking at the entirety of society. Most prominent among them is Hyperloop One, which is seeking to develop a light speed transportation system, while Next Future Transportation specializes in self-driving vehicles. Other big names are Concensys, one of the world leading app software providers and Honeywell, with the latter focusing on developing new 3D digital systems for medical applications (and 3D printing).

According to HE Mohammed Al Gergawi, they were targeting companies that, through sustainability and innovations, will help Dubai usher in the fourth industrial revolution and change business models as we know them. “Following an in-depth study – undertaken with our partners and a group of leading experts – to test the feasibility and effectiveness of each entry’s proposed solutions for the challenges facing the relevant key sectors, we can confidently say that we have selected the most innovative and promising applicants,” he stated.

While many of the startups will use 3D printing in one shape or form throughout their development process, the technology seems to be most strongly represented by Construction Robotics, a construction specialist that seeks to increase productivity five-fold through innovative 3D printing solutions. Their selection is not entirely surprising, as Dubai is known for its refreshing look at construction. Their immense man-made islands are a new wonder of the world, but they are also steadily adopting 3D printing for various new structures, such as Dubai’s Museum of the Future and this first fully functional 3D printed office building. Through Construction Robotics many more similar projects will doubtlessly follow.

Indeed, infrastructure and construction are two of the key targets on the government agenda. Together with education, health, energy and transportation, “they will provide a global platform to develop new and innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges facing society,” HE Al Gergawi argued. “When it comes to innovation, there is a flood of good ideas but not enough champions with courage and vision to test them out.”

It is also remarkable that the DFA has set a new acceleration program record in attracting businesses, and that doubtlessly has something to do with the extreme eagerness of Dubai to be innovative. “Our goal is to transform the city of Dubai into a global test bed for leading ideas and technologies,” said H.H. Sheikh Hamdan, the Crown Prince of Dubai.

Also very appealing is the fact that no equity or intellectual property has to be handed over to Dubai. “We only ask only that we be invited to invest alongside other partners if fundraising is part of the eventual outcome of your participation in the program. Our goal is to help you take your product or service prototype out into the real world, with real partners and real impact,” the organizers previously stated. “This is about creating and testing real proof of concepts and prototypes at the city-wide scale.”



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