Dubai’s District 2020: A global innovation ecosystem for collaboration and tech acceleration

Presented by District 2020

The cities of the future need to be accessible and safe, offering residents healthier lives with efficient access to nature, services and smart technologies. They must prioritize health and well-being and ensure workers and businesses can realize their potential through continuous innovation. While it may seem like a big ask to factor all these elements into urban development and design, there’s a new, human-centric city in Dubai bringing this vision to life. 

District 2020, originally the site of Expo 2020 Dubai (a six-month global celebration of human innovation, imagination and ingenuity), is evolving into a community driven by innovation and talent while being supported by the latest advances in technology. It’s a people-first city built for the future that is focused on creating a global hub that nurtures innovation, integrates advanced technologies, and empowers businesses small and large.


Anticipating future workforce needs

Evolving out of the Expo 2020 site, District 2020 is designed to respond to the future needs of businesses and workers as a people-first, purpose-driven community that will transition and repurpose state-of-the-art physical and virtual infrastructure from the World Expo.

District 2020 directors are curating an integrated, multi-stakeholder, smart and sustainable urban space. It will achieve this through campus-style work environments, innovation labs, R&D centres, learning institutions and outdoor spaces that combine the best of the physical and the virtual. It will allow businesses and workers to embrace a hybrid working model that supports employees working from different locations.

Alongside a focus on employee well-being, District 2020 is also committed to helping businesses achieve environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals. The increased focus on ESG factors has been spurred by a workforce that is now more demanding than ever of opportunities to engage in purpose-driven work, just as they are much more aware of the environment they work in and their well-being.


A platform for innovation

Innovation is the element that will help businesses drive progress in their industries as well as create growth opportunities. By curating a multi-stakeholder ecosystem supported by cutting-edge digital infrastructure, District 2020 is enabling Fortune 500s, startups, SMEs, MNCs and government entities to work smarter and better together.

A sophisticated ICT network will support the future needs of District 2020’s community (including smart-city applications that monitor water, waste and electricity use) and allow businesses to be hyper-connected, share information more easily and enable remote working for their employees. Crucially, advanced technologies will empower businesses located in District 2020 to operate smarter and more sustainably within a community that functions as a test bed for new ideas and solutions. This will create a cycle of positive disruption where innovation in itself will also further accelerate greater innovation processes.

Then there’s innovation powered through collaboration. To this end, District 2020 is attracting diverse global, regional and homegrown organizations that are aligned with new technologies that are starting to impact our urban communities, such as smart logistics, Industry 4.0 and smart mobility. 

By encouraging cross-industry collaboration, knowledge is shared and ultimately new ideas will flourish. Anchor tenants, comprised of global industry leaders, will participate in this collaboration. These include Siemens, Expo 2020’s official infrastructure digitalization partner. Siemens will establish its global logistics HQ and newly spun-off Siemens Energy at District 2020. Tech innovator Terminus Technologies, a Shanghai-based high-tech company and Expo 2020’s official robotics partner, will establish its first regional headquarters and research centre in AI and IoT at District 2020. DP World, whose Pavilion will remain at District 2020 after the conclusion of Expo 2020, will support education, entrepreneurship and capacity building in smart logistics.

Collaboration will also be amplified through the presence of key enablers such as accelerators, incubators, universities, research and education centres, venture capitalists and innovation labs, further catalysing site-wide innovation.


Driving innovation through entrepreneurship

Located in pro-business Dubai, District 2020 will provide an innovation ecosystem that supports innovation-driven entrepreneurs and R&D. With the aim of unlocking new growth opportunities and advancing competitiveness, District 2020 launched its Scale2Dubai global entrepreneurship program. Designed to help startups and small businesses have a soft landing in Dubai, the program seeks to involve them as key contributors to the growth of innovation, job creation and industry by allowing them to develop partnerships with larger, better established enities based in District 2020.

The program is currently accepting applications. Following a process of evaluation and judging by a panel of experts, the first two cohorts of successful applicants will be announced toward the end of Expo 2020 Dubai, in March 2022. The first cohort of 80-100 businesses will be able to move into their work space at District 2020 by October 2022.

Those accepted into the equity-free program will benefit from two years of free working space, two-year visas, an accommodating business setup, subsidized urban living and access to special rates for service providers.


A living lab: Supporting the development of smart-city tech

Much of this innovation will rely on collaboration, however technology has a considerable hand to play in how tenants, partners and businesses are able to advance industries that will shape the future of urban environments.

As an innovation ecosystem that is designed support the growth of smart cities, District 2020’s digital and physical infrastructure will both include and support the development of technologies such as robotics, blockchain, AI, VR/AR, IoT, Artificial Internet of Things (AIoT), 3D printing and cyber security. 

Organizations will be able to benefit from being surrounded by these technologies in a “living lab” environment — a place where individuals and businesses can experiment and test new inventions and ideas.


Future focused, with purpose

Being connected and collaborating, both physically and digitally, holds the key to District 2020 creating a balanced ecosystem that will be a blueprint for future urban developments. With smart technologies integrated across the community, and businesses focused on advanced technologies, all those inhabiting District 2020 will be able to collaborate and innovate in ways that will redefine what a city of the future looks like.


C2 One-on-One interview with the head of Dubai’s District 2020

The Vice President of District 2020, Nadimeh Mehra, sits down with former CTV anchor and journalist Paul Karwatsky to discuss the opening of Expo 2020, the future of District 2020 and Scale2Dubai..

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