United Arab Emirates



As the future of Expo 2020 Dubai, District 2020 will provide an ideal home and an enabling environment where startups will become co-creators of solutions that accelerate industry growth.

Nadimeh Mehra
Vice President, District 2020 – Transition Unit, Expo 2020 Dubai
#2 MENA Ecosystem: Performance
Top 10 MENA Ecosystem: Knowledge
Top 10 Global Emerging Ecosystem: Funding


Set to evolve from Expo 2020 and drive the world fair’s legacy into the future, District 2020 will be a human-centric future city and a global innovation ecosystem. As a community where people, businesses, technologies, industries, R&D and academia connect, District 2020 will support Dubai’s future agenda and the growth of the UAE’s innovation-driven economy. District 2020’s curated innovation ecosystem will actively facilitate growth opportunities by bringing together all stakeholders, including Fortune 500s, small and medium businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, innovators and enablers (incubators, accelerators, academia, VC, government) in key sectors. As a multi-stakeholder platform it will support businesses of all sizes to co-create, scale, and thrive within Dubai. District 2020 complement’s Dubai’s bold vision for the future. It will play an integral role in the Dubai 2040 Plan, which outlines a new mode of thought for urban master planning, established as a transformative, human-centric plan by the visionary leadership of Dubai. District 2020 will provide a blueprint of how a future city is shaped through human-centricity and smart infrastructure whilst ensuring a more sustainable and balanced lifestyle. As a city of firsts, District 2020 will provide a living lab for global industry leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs looking to create and test new products and solutions and new ways of working, in a progressive live-work-play community. Dubai is the headquarters of the Egyptian ridesharing service provider Swvl, which became the first Middle East unicorn to list on Nasdaq in July 2021, valued at $1.5 billion. Local startups that have been acquired by global leaders including Uber's $3.1bn acquisition of Careem and Souq.com, which was acquired by Amazon in 2017 for $580m, which have put the UAE’s startups in the spotlight.

Ecosystem by the numbers

$445 m
$431 m
$7.2 bn
$10.5 bn
$500 k
$494 k
$3.3 m
$2.7 m
$37 k
$42.1 k

Sub-sector Strengths

Smart Logistics

The logistics industry comprises more than 14% of Dubai’s GDP and this sub-sector is forecasted to grow at a rate of 4% through to 2022. Dubai was named among the world's top 5 shipping hubs according to the International Shipping Centre Development Index. District 2020 will soon be home to Siemens’ global logistics headquarters and DP World will support learning and capacity building in logistics to fuel the ecosystem with talent and research.

Industry 4.0 and Future Technologies

A front-runner in Industry 4.0, Dubai offers growth opportunities for investors across future-oriented sectors, driven by long-term strategies focused on AI, blockchain, 3D printing, IoT and its role as a testbed for concepts in a live setting. For instance, 25% of Dubai’s buildings will use 3D printing by 2030, and the world’s largest 3D printed building is already built here. The progressive government initiatives have enabled experimental concepts like the world's first autonomous flying taxi, Volocopter, and Hyperloop One.

Reasons to move your startup to Dubai

Talent Development

Dubai offers visa incentives for high value talent – five years for post-study residence & tech startup owners; and 10 years for specialists in STEM fields and for investors. In 2020, the UAE launched a new Remote Work Visa Program that allows people to live in the emirate for one year, and in 2021 the UAE decided to grant Emirati citizenship to investors, scientists, professionals, and creative talents.

Unrivalled Startup Support

Successful applicants to District 2020’s dedicated global entrepreneurship programme, Scale2Dubai,will have access to everything they need to thrive, including work space, business setup support, guidance, deal flow, funding, talent, banking services, IT infrastructure, and more. The equity-free programme is expected to support between 80 and 100 startups and small businesses annually. Other initiatives for supporting SMEs offer postponement of rent payments, easier access to SME financing, and remote assistance on navigating operational challenges through the Dubai SME government body and its Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund.

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