Innovation article lead
Culture of innovation can span generations. No effort should be spared to build those skills from the outset. (Image used for illustrative purposes.) Image Credit: Image courtesy of UAEU

We are witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime generational shift.

Processes, systems, and ways of working that were the norm have given way to a new order, driven by digital transformation, and accelerated by the reality of the pandemic. The biggest lesson we can take from what we are witnessing is refreshingly simple: those who survive and emerge stronger are those who invest in innovation.

This is as much applicable for individuals, corporates, and nations. Those who will come out of the crisis faster are those that have focused on innovation, leveraging investments in next-generation tech, and creating an innovation-conducive environment.

In fact, one study conducted on the impact of the economic crisis of 2008 revealed that businesses that invested in innovation were the fastest to recover… and gained stronger returns when the economy rebounded.

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Pay off

The power of innovation to accelerate growth, through new opportunities in diverse sectors, is evident in the UAE. One of the first countries in the region to establish a National Innovation Strategy, the UAE’s focus on expanding its capabilities, through innovation, is highlighted by many breakthroughs – the Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission to Mars; the world's first 3D-printed commercial building; the establishment of ministries focused on AI and Advanced Technology – the list goes on.

The UAE has long invested in building national competencies in energy, healthcare, aviation, manufacturing, and finance, by leveraging the potential offered by Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. The country is also focused on its human capital, where its digital-savvy youth plays a central role.

Mindset change

One of the central themes moving forward must be how we can further equip national talent to embody an ‘innovation mindset’. This focus on innovation makes the UAE stronger and more resilient to the inevitable disruptions.

One example is in the energy sector. Delivering uninterrupted power is a key engine for a rebounding economy.

The question before innovators is how we can continue to produce, transmit and distribute electricity with a lower carbon footprint? How can we achieve higher efficiencies at existing power plants? How can we continue to scale up renewable energy generation and make it work with natural gas to meet demand in a sustainable way?

These are the kind of questions innovators ask continuously and work towards achieving solutions – not just in energy, but also in healthcare and aviation.

All round gains

The strengthening of innovation culture has a positive ripple effect on the economy. In addition to nurturing a new generation of scientists and technology leaders who will contribute to the country’s knowledge base, innovative businesses create local entrepreneurial opportunities and support the growth of SMEs, which are an integral part of the national economy.

The innovation environment the UAE provides reflects in the findings of GE’s Global Innovation Barometer, which revealed that business executives rank the nation as a global leader in creating an ‘innovation-conducive environment’.

With the business community rallying for innovation and the government investing in building an innovation-conducive environment, the task before us all is embrace innovation to accelerate growth – not just for a week or a month – but for years ahead.

- Dr. Dalya Al Muthanna is President of GE in the UAE and Chief of Strategy & Operations for GE International Markets.