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What's the shape of tomorrow's innovation going to look like? The young in the UAE and Gulf have ideas. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Last week, Abu Dhabi hosted the Al Ittihad's Forum to discuss many of the recurring and new issues related to development, which remains the backbone of economic stability. It also addressed the relationship between development and technological progress, which is then correlated with innovation, crisis management, AI and a knowledge-grounded economy.

As was to be expected, there was intense focus on the UAE experience and its aspirations towards the next 50 years. This needs particular mention because the UAE has set a unique role model for emerging countries.

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A wholesale change

Let’s just hone in on one aspect, which reflect the nation’s desire to bring about wholesale change in the way it seeks growth. For the first time, young lecturers were invited by the Forum to talk about their experiences in the field of research and innovation, and clearly highlights the projected changes in the economic diversification of the UAE and the GCC. These highlight changes in the structure of the GCC labor market as a result of the changing development model.

Many conclusions can be drawn from the opinions of young people who took part in the event. A sizeable section of the Emirati and Gulf youth no longer consider oil as the country’s basic wealth, and do not wait until the end of the month to receive part of the oil-generated revenues - as ‘salaries’ - as was the case for previous generations.

Rather, they have ambitions to break into the world of innovation, creativity and digital science because of emerging opportunities, something which would help remove dependence on depleted natural resources, despite their current importance.

No shortage of ideas

One of the Emirati researchers spoke enthusiastically about her experience in innovation from the US, where she is studying. Another young woman spoke about her work in AI and the successes that have been achieved, some of which is clearly evident at Expo 2020. Another spoke about his scientific experiences that can contribute to finding solutions for some of the diseases that humanity suffers from.

Listening to the views of young people and their aspirations for innovation, digitization and renewal clearly explains what the next development path would be in the Arab Gulf. It will depend on professional digital systems, and this approach if successful will lead to a qualitative leap in the Gulf economies, provided that the work is done at the speed that the current generation is thinking about.

The young sound enthusiastic, clever, and possess enormous capabilities to bring about change. Yet, there are necessary and significant foundations that must be laid to ensure success of this approach, including a multi-purpose infrastructure for innovation and scientific research.

Without that, young people will only have two options, either to migrate to countries that provide such advanced infrastructure, or to despair and rely on getting a portion of the oil revenue at the end of each month.

Certainly, some institutes and innovation, research centers have been established, but the increasing number of Gulf innovators requires increased attention to lead the diversification of Gulf economies. This will give the GCC further economic power to compete…