DUBAI: Future readiness and forward thinking define Dubai’s vibrant evolutionary journey and are intrinsic to its proven ability to set new benchmarks that the world looks up to. Dubai’s development model is founded upon themes such as innovation, technological agility and sustainability, with an accent on unlocking the limitless potential of the future for itself and the world. Public happiness and responsive governance meld seamlessly into this script.

On any development parameter, Dubai is heavily invested in the future. True to its futuristic credo, the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan spells out the emirate’s vision for sustainable urban development, proclaiming its ambition to be the world’s best city to live, work and visit. The ‘Dubai 10X’ initiative sets it on course to be 10 years ahead of other cities on any count. Top-notch infrastructure makes it a preferred global trade, business and logistics hub. The Dubai Economic Agenda (D33) is actively adding economic heft, bolstering the emirate’s standing as a vital global hub in many respects.

Driving collaboration
Dubai’s fascination with the future finds expression in many more ways. The Dubai Future Accelerators initiative is a prime example of collaborative action that brings together government entities alongside startups and innovative companies worldwide to address global challenges and co-create solutions. Likewise there is Area 2071, a vibrant innovation ecosystem that enables startups, government entities and private sector companies to jointly tackle global challenges and come up with future-focused solutions. The Dubai Design District (d3) works on a different tangent. Focused on nurturing the design community, d3 supports creative industries, fostering innovation and design thinking across various sectors.

One only needs look back at Dubai’s successful economic diversification plan to catch a glimpse of the futuristic outlook that drives it. Visionary leadership and proactive policies helped chart a path away from dependence on the hydrocarbons sector. A series of ambitious initiatives accelerated economic growth with its bourses amplifying the success. Tourism, trade, finance and technology among other sectors all had roles to play.

Dubai has also sought to build on its credentials as one of the fastest-growing technology hubs. It has welcomed futuristic industries with open arms and, in fact, offers a convergence point for the change-makers of the world. Startups, innovators, entrepreneurs, industry experts and talents of every hue invariably link up in Dubai to design and co-create the future in countless ways. Further illustrating Dubai’s zest to shape the future, Expo City Dubai, the venue of the global climate summit COP28, has been developed as a City of the Future. Expo City was in the news more recently when it signed a cooperation agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to switch entirely to electricity produced from renewable energy sources.

Relentless quest
The spirit of innovation pulses across diverse sectors in Dubai. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a financial hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA), boasts an Innovation Hub featuring more than 600 growth-stage tech firms, forming the region’s largest innovation community. DIFC also oversees a FinTech Hive, the first and largest financial technology (FinTech) accelerator in the region. The Innovation Hub's FinTech Accelerator Program deploys emerging technologies to keep up the momentum. DIFC, in effect, spearheads Dubai’s vision to be the leading city for venture-building in MEASA.

What’s more, even the creative and art sectors are part of this futuristic canvas with Art Dubai, a leading global forum for artists and exhibitors, bridging the art and technology realms through the Art Dubai Digital pavilion.

Any discussion about the future invariably stirs a buzz around the Dubai Future Forum, the world’s largest gathering of futurists. Hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation at the iconic Museum of the Future, the event draws foresight specialists, thought leaders and experts from academia, industries and governments to deliberate on how humanity can continue to craft its shared destiny far into the future.

Critical enablers
From 27-28 November, the Forum will once again set the tone for impassioned discussions on the most crucial issues mirrored in the future, reinforcing Dubai’s appeal as a global hub for future leadership and action. The Dubai Future Foundation, for its part, engenders accelerator programmes, incubators, robotics labs and research platforms besides regulatory mechanisms to drive a future-ready city. The Museum of the Future, itself, provides the largest platform in the region to envision, study and design the future.

Legislative clarity
Adoption of future technologies calls for legislative clarity and Dubai ticks this box as well. Unveiling the world’s first city-government endorsed Smart AI Ethics Self-Assessment Tool to assess level of ethics in AI systems, Dubai showed it is clued in on the need to regulate future technologies. The Dubai Cyber Index, launched back in 2020, was a first-of-its-kind initiative highlighting the city as a torchbearer for cyber safety globally.

Dubai is one of the first cities in the world to flag off the ultimate integration of futuristic mobility solutions, including autonomous vehicles and advanced aerial mobility solutions, into its public transportation system. The latter initiative, slated to take off in just about three years, will see vertiports coming up across the city as part of an air mobility infrastructure network designed for the future. A legislation regulating autonomous vehicles also makes Dubai a pathbreaker regionally. Among other ambitious programmes, the emirate has also outlined plans to use 3D printing technology at scale, with a 25% target for 3D printed buildings in 15 years.

As always, Dubai scores high on FDI into breakthrough sectors. According to the Financial Times Ltd. ‘fDi Markets’ data for 2022, Dubai emerged as the 2022 world leader in attracting FDI projects in the creative industries cluster, in research and development projects, and in attracting FDI project headquarters by hosting global and regional headquarters of top-ranking companies.

Perennially inquisitive and upbeat about the future, Dubai also hosts events like the Knowlege Summit, Future Urbanism Expo, WETEX (Water, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition) and Dubai Solar Show, Future Sustainability Forum, World Changing Ideas Summit and Future Innovation Summit, besides GITEX, arguably the world’s largest technology show.

Awake to responsibilities
The focus on the future does not distract Dubai from its responsibilities in the present. It is geared to innovatively address global challenges and has walked the talk on climate action. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer model, takes the push for renewables a step further while the world’s largest waste to energy plant in Warsan makes a statement on sustainability. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy last year approved plans to slash carbon emissions by 30 per cent before the end of 2030.

So too, Dubai takes the lead as host of the global climate summit, COP28, which is just around the corner. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 also emphasises plans to shape a green future. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority among other public entities in Dubai have been quick to tap Industrial Revolution 4 applications for a sustainable future. DEWA is the world’s first utility to have a dedicated nanosatellite operating in sync with Industrial Revolution 4 technologies to boost overall efficiencies. And therein lies the crux – where the future is concerned, Dubai does not let it fall to chance.