An artist’s impression of the master plan of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Countries that embrace a long-term policy towards clean technology will be the winner in the future market," said Swiss President Doris Leuthard during a recent briefing with US officials in Washington. Echoing the same sentimentis the Swiss Embassy in the UAE, which is promoting Swiss cleantech companies in the Middle East through its ambitious Swiss Village in Masdar City.

Powered by prudent investments, best-in-class infrastructure, economic and political stability and sound know-how, Switzerland is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Europe and has always been at the forefront of promoting sustainable technology. It is therefore not surprising that Switzerland is playing a crucial role in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City, billed as the world's first carbon-neutral zero waste city.

When completed, the $22 billion (Dh80 billion) Masdar City will be an international hub for companies and organisations focused on renewable energy and clean technologies, and put Abu Dhabi firmly on the global map of most sustainable urban developments.

Swiss cleantech

The focal point of the Masdar project will be Swiss Village, pegged as a reference project for Swiss cleantech. To promote the project and act as a platform for sharing knowledge and information, the Swiss Embassy in the UAE and the Swiss Sustainability Initiative have joined hands to form the Swiss Village Association (SVA).

According to Wafa Y Hijjawi, Vice-President, SVA (Procurement), the association has enlisted more than 170 companies to date. "The Swiss Village in the heart of Masdar will stand for everything Swiss — right from the design to the building materials," says Hijjawi.

"It will be a project for the Swiss and built by the Swiss. It will include a dedicated Swiss neighbourhood, a cleantech hub, the Swiss Embassy, the ambassador's residence, a Swiss business hub, hospitality and retail outlets and science and technology exhibition centre."

Opportunity for Swiss companies

The project will offer excellent opportunities to Swiss companies willing to venture into the emerging markets of the Middle East and in return the UAE and the other Middle Eastern countries will gain access to Swiss knowledge, skills and expertise.

The Swiss Village will be a tax-exempt free zone with unrestricted foreign ownership and repatriation of profits or capital, and will be built as per the Minergie standards — one of the most successful certificates in the world for sustainable buildings.

"So far we have attracted a lot of attention from Swiss companies willing to set up their Middle East operations from Masdar, Abu Dhabi. We have more than 27 letters of intention from various Swiss enterprises including financial institutions, manufacturing, hospitality and health care service providers," says Hijjawi.

Business for UAE-based companies

The SVA project management is also allowing non-Swiss companies in the UAE who have direct business links in Switzerland to operate from the Swiss Village. "This will broaden the scope of the project and generate businesses for the local companies as well," Hijjawi adds.

The project will be part of the first phase of Masdar's development, along with the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Mist) and the administrative office of Masdar. "To keep up the momentum, SVA is building a fast-track project, called the Sprinter complex, in the heart of the Swiss Village neighbourhood," says Hijjawi.

"We are looking forward to setting up the Swiss Village at Masdar City," the Swiss ambassador to the UAE Wolfgang Amadeus Bruelhart said in a recent interview.