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Dubai: Dubai Industrial City (DIC) has signed up a number of pharma and F&B companies this year and the free zone is now in talks with a few European companies, according to Saud Abu Al Shawareb, Managing Director of Dubai Industrial City.

“We have more than 750 business partners in our portfolio – this year, we have reached more than 280 factories,” said Al Shawareb on the sidelines Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit. “We have noticed that food and pharma are taking the lead in terms of demand.”

It has already been a big year for DIC, with Indian skincare and wellness brand Himalaya set to invest Dh120 million in an herbal pharmaceutical unit in the free zone. Production at the facility will start in the first quarter of 2024.

Changing tact

DIC’s head said that the pandemic had prompted companies to become more cost-efficient. “We have noticed is that factory owners and business partners are diversifying their operations and investing in renewable energy,” said Al Shawareb. “We are working closely with our partners to increase our (renewable energy capacity) numbers.”

These efforts are not limited to energy consumption alone. “Business partners are being more efficient by upgrading their manufacturing lines - they are introducing advanced technologies to their production,” said Al Shawareb.

Rule change

The UAE has become a more attractive investment destination since the country scrapped the need to have UAE nationals as sponsors, thus allowing expatriate investors 100 per cent ownership. “Change in the rule is really helping attract more investments to UAE and Dubai - companies can capitalize on high-end infrastructure and the change in legislation,” said Al Shawareb.

The UK’s ArcelorMittal Group, the world’s top steel manufacturer, recently acquired the assets of a pipe and coating mill located in Sharjah’s Hamriyah Free Zone. On being asked whether DIC will launch incentives to attract high-profile companies, Al Shawareb said: “We look at the value a business adds to Dubai’s economy – we review requests on a case-by-case basis.”

Strong sentiment

The UAE has the most competitive industrial sector in the Arab world, according to the latest UN global rankings published. The country reached 30th in the world in the 2021 United Nation’s Industrial Organisation’s (UNIDO) Competitive Industrial Performance Index (CIP) report, which tracks 152 countries.

The report noted UAE’s progress in infrastructure and the industrial sector’s business ecosystem. It referred to the UAE’s strategy for sustainable growth in the industrial sector through incorporating advanced technology, promoting science-based education, balancing industrial progress with environmental sustainability, and encouraging innovation.