Start-up technology centers should take measures that will both quickly lead to growth and support growth and development in the future. The United Arab Emirates, 96% of whose technical workforce is made up of immigrants, is an example of the advantages of a well-planned, comprehensive strategy for the development of a technology center that uses both short-term and long-term leverage.
In a new report titled "Turning a Technology Center into a Talent Magnet," the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) examined 11 technology centers around the world that continue to thrive by attracting digital talent from beyond their borders. In particular, BCG has analyzed the strategies and set of measures taken by Dubai to attract talent, since 2019 has strengthened strong relationships with clients throughout the region and already has proven experience in providing game-changing services to leading public and private organizations.
“Successful digital centers need a large number of digital talents — an increasingly scarce commodity. The global shortage of technical workers will reach 4.3 million people by 2030. And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an increase in demand for digital services. Dubai realized this attraction very early, attracting technical experts from all four corners of the world,” said Faisal Hamadi, managing Director and partner at BCG.
“The main catalyst for attracting talent is Dubai's permanent visa offers, which are the first in the region and have further strengthened the reputation of the center as one of the best. These include business visas, under which foreigners can obtain a long-term visa under the Golden Visa system, as well as remote work visas and a virtual work program assigned to them for beginners and entrepreneurs who want to permanently reside in the UAE while working outside the UAE.”
According to the survey, Dubai stands out as the leader in three waves due to a combination of short-term and long-term leverage. First, for many years, he has successfully attracted leading technology companies through aggressive incentives for corporate tax rates limited to zero. They were followed by smaller technology companies with operations in the UAE.
In addition, it boasts a Golden UAE Visa and citizenship opportunities for international investors and top professionals from around the world, providing them with visas for up to 10 years – along with a recent work visa scheme that allows employees from around the world to work remotely from the UAE. The one-year visa, considered the first of its kind in the region, provides entrepreneurs and talents with the opportunity to innovate in a secure and attractive UAE business environment with access to all necessary services, including world-class utilities and telecommunications.
Secondly, he has launched several initiatives to attract talent with skills needed for industries targeted by the government, such as agricultural technology as part of the 10-point urban action plan for the future of Dubai District, a new space designed to develop the economy of the future, as well as a fund of 1 billion dirhams to support new economic companies that can contribute to the future growth of Dubai. In the long term, the government has encouraged leading international universities to establish local campuses to attract the best students and encourage the children of current employees to stay in the UAE for higher education.
Jurgen Eckel, managing director and partner, as well as regional head of BCG Digital Ventures, said: “The report highlights that a feature of successful hubs is a number of policy tools. To win the digital talent competition, policy makers need a clear understanding of their center's current strengths, the key industries they seek to develop, and the type of workforce they need. And Dubai has done just that. Attracting digital talent requires understanding the factors that motivate qualified tech workers to move to new places. Armed with this knowledge, policymakers can continue to work with stakeholders in the local digital ecosystem to develop and implement strategies to create and develop dynamic, sustainable technology hubs that can drive innovation and economic growth for decades to come.”
Part of the established BCG network that has been operating in the Middle East for 15 years, BCG Digital Ventures, part of BCG's X tech-build and design business unit, recently opened in the region, introducing a new center for corporate venture talent and strengthening its commitment to GCC.
“In addition to combining short-term and long-term leverage, we identified three other key lessons that other cities and countries can learn from the leading technology centers that we studied. These include developing and executing a strategic plan, leveraging existing strengths, and engaging anchor companies to create broader hubs. With the right combination of strategies that take advantage of existing strengths and increase their attractiveness to digital talent and leading technology companies, cities and countries can create dynamic technology centers that will become dynamic centers of international business,” added Rami Murtada, Partner and Director of BCG.
To cope with the ongoing inflationary pressures, the UAE is now offering selected startups office space with two years of free rent, providing employees with health insurance and at the same time facilitating the obtaining of work visas for new talent. Among other initiatives, he has created incubators such as Dubai Area 2071, and attracted venture capital companies from around the world to establish local offices, which demonstrates Dubai's desire to act as a sustainable global center of excellence.