As the local health care sector continues to evolve, global firms are increasingly looking to tap into an exciting — and profitable — market that is projected to grow by 9.6 per cent to $25.6 billion (Dh94 billion) by 2022. Dubai’s growing population and its pivotal geographic position with access to key emerging markets with large appetites for cutting-edge goods makes the city a strategic import destination for all types of products.

The numbers speak for themselves. From food to raw materials, and textiles to pharmaceuticals, imports have increased from $132 billion in 2007 to a staggering $268 billion in 2017 — a 103 per cent increase. This growth presents a unique opportunity for Dubai to become an international manufacturing hub and reduce its dependence on imports, while increasing the output of exported goods.

However, to achieve this purpose, companies and governments must enhance their own capabilities and work closely together. While the percentage of the UAE’s trade balance has fluctuated significantly over the years, the 2017 data suggests that as a country we continue to rely on imports, with over 61 per cent more products being imported than exported.

With this in mind, the Dubai Government established the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, an ambitious plan that looks to increase output and enable strategically important sectors to transform Dubai into a preferred manufacturing platform for global players. The plan has become an important driver for the development of sectors such as aerospace, maritime, aluminium and fabricated metals, fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), food and beverage, as well as pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

Positive forecasts predict that these increased industrial capabilities will grow Dubai’s total GDP by an additional $43.5 billion, while the contribution of the industrial sector will rise a further $4.9 billion. Furthermore, the plan is expected to significantly increase R&D capacities while adding 27,000 specialised jobs and an extra $4.3 billion to the country’s export sheet.

The healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors are among the priority sectors for the industrial strategy. Owing to substantial investments in R&D, these industries are leaders in technological advancement, developing innovative products that are truly game-changers.

To seize this opportunity, a Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Taskforce was set up earlier last year within the framework of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 to develop the local health care sector with a focus on super-generics, nutraceuticals, blood plasma production, medical 3D printing and next-generation sequencing (NGS).

The task force strives to create a conducive health care ecosystem that features the right regulatory environment, protects intellectual property, provides infrastructure and R&D capacities, enables talent, strengthens trade relationships and optimises industrial strategies.

Dubai’s focus on the pharmaceutical sector has not been in vain. A perfect example of the value this sector has brought to the economy was evident in the inauguration of the manufacturing plant of Pharmax Pharmaceuticals at Dubai Science Park earlier this month.

The $34 million factory is the first advanced manufacturing facility to be opened in our science-focused community and equipped with the latest technology, meeting stringent global regulatory standards. The 100,000 square feet facility has a current annual capacity of over 200 million tablet and capsule dosage forms, which is expected to increase in the next five years to over 800 million, producing medication that targets chronic conditions common in the Middle East.

The significance of this opening should not be overlooked.

We can now locally produce medication for cardiovascular diseases, psychiatric and neurological disorders and gastroenterological diseases among others.

Pharmax’s contribution is already making a positive impact to the local economy, both directly thanks to the jobs it has created, and indirectly by helping Dubai rely less on foreign exports and thereby serve as an example to other pharmaceutical companies that Dubai is a profitable and strategic location for their plants.

Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi is Managing Director of Dubai Science Park and Chairing Member of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Taskforce of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030.