Today’s world is full of disruption. The rate at which new entrepreneurs and fresh business ideas are emerging, continues to gain momentum globally and regionally. Every day, we read about new start-ups pushing the boundaries of technology, exploration and experience.
It really is thought provoking – recently I’ve found myself reflecting on what it takes for a real innovation ecosystem to flourish and enable entrepreneurship, and why this is largely missing in our region. The landscape of technology companies in our part of the world is a good representation of the level of maturity of such an ecosystem.
According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, among the top 1,000 tech companies by revenue, only 1 percent are located in the Middle East, compared with 44 percent in Asia Pacific and 36 percent in the US.
In my view, there are five key elements that are essential to establish a thriving start-up and innovation hub.
Firstly, significant research and development through universities, companies or other institutions helps to spur idea generation and create technology to be licensed for development and commercialisation.
For example, Silicon Valley, the ‘gold standard’ of innovation and start-up ecosystems, has had a very symbiotic relationship with Stanford University. More than 40,000 companies can trace their origin to Stanford. These companies created approximately 6 million jobs, and generated annual global revenues of $3 trillion, nearly on par with the world’s sixth largest economy!
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has a rich scientific heritage, with some of the world’s first seats of learning in places such as Beirut, Baghdad, Alexandria and Damascus.
Today, there are simply too few world-class academic and research institutions to anchor the innovation ecosystem that we aspire to create in MENA. A robust and sustained dialogue between the corporate and academic worlds is required in order to underpin this, as…