Expo 2020 inside look
Expo 2020 site. District 2020, which oversees the Expo Dubai development and its future operations, will launch a support programme for startups through a partnership with Dubai SME and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund. Image Credit: Yousra Zaki/Gulf News

Dubai: District 2020, which oversees the Expo Dubai development and its future operations, will launch a support programme for startups through a partnership with Dubai SME and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund.

These will be directed through District 2020’s entrepreneur programme, Scale2Dubai.

Dubai SME and MBRIF will provide a “pipeline” of startups by helping eligible companies sign up to Scale2Dubai. They will also provide guidance, connections and funding.

Scale2Dubai is currently accepting expressions of interest in the programme through the District 2020 website.

Successful candidates can access two years’ free work space, support on visa and business set-up, two years’ subsidised living, and access to funding.

The application and shortlisting process will follow in 2021, with successful applicants announced during Expo 2020 Dubai. Those chosen to be part of the programme will be able to move into their workspaces at District 2020 once it opens, shortly after Expo 2020 ends.

“Through the combined efforts, Scale2Dubai and our wider District 2020 ecosystem support a crucial sector of the UAE economy and complement other accelerators and incubators around the country,” said Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Pavilions and Exhibitions Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai

An extended run

Expo 2020 will run from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, and District 2020 will evolve over a nine-month transition period after the event ends. During this period, more than 80 per cent of Expo’s built environment will be repurposed.

It will carry forward Expo 2020’s mission of stimulating business opportunities and continue to support startups and SMEs integral to the UAE economy.

The partnerships will enable start-ups and small businesses to be part of the Scale2Dubai programme and access the District 2020 platform from which they can expand. It will also offer them opportunity to “connect with large enterprises and receive access to funding and other growth enablers,” according to a statement.

Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, said: "We will work on qualifying innovative national projects from members of our Hamdan Innovation Incubator as well as from the different countries participating in our ‘Innovation Attraction Programme,’ to strengthen District 2020 as a platform for start-ups to grow regionally and access international markets."

Emphasis on SMEs
As of the end of March 2020, Expo 2020 awarded more than Dh4.6 billion to SMEs, who account for nearly 50 per cent of all businesses registered with it. And 56 per cent of all Expo contracts have been awarded to the sector.
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