From left: Oliver Cornock, Managing Editor, Oxford Business Group, Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq., Adel Ali, Group CEO Air Arabia. Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa. Chairman, Sharjah Media City Free Zone, Hatem Al Mosa, CEO SNOC during the launch of Sharjah economic report. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/ Gulf News

Sharjah: Sharjah’s Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) said it expects research and technology to be a thriving sector in the emirate, which aims to eventually become a research hub for the Middle East and North Africa.

In a press conference on Monday, Marwan Al Sarkal, chief executive officer of Shurooq, said Sharjah is also planning to focus on tourism and health care services in the next few years in a bid to grow its economy and attract more investment.

“Research and technology, in my view, is going to be the new thriving sector for Sharjah, keeping in mind that it’s going to be connected to the American University of Sharjah and University City. It is going to have a major impact because I believe the Arab world is missing a research centre, and I think Sharjah has the right platform and infrastructure to make it an exciting destination for research in the Arab world to thrive,” he said.

In late 2015, Sharjah appointed Hussain Al Mahmoudi as chief executive officer of a new establishment called AUS Enterprises, which is mandated by a decree to develop commercial activities to support academic, research, technology, and real estate sectors.

Shurooq’s Al Sarkal said the establishment has already starting doing road shows to attract investment and has talked with other universities and research centres globally about cooperation potential.

In other sectors, Al Sarkal said Sharjah is aiming to differentiate its tourism sector through promoting ecotourism (tourism focused on natural environments and wildlife), archaeology, and cultural tourism.

The emirate is also aiming to grow its health care sector, with Al Sarkal saying there are 0.9 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, and that gap between supply and demand offers ample opportunity for investors in the health care industry.

The CEO was speaking at an event to launch a Sharjah economic report by the Oxford Business Group. The report included a survey of 200 business leaders, with over half of them saying they are likely or very likely to make a significant capital investment over the next 12 months as they see a period of opportunities.