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Business Trends in Dubai and Start-up Opportunities in Artificial Intelligence

There’s no question that the world around us is getting smarter. In recent years, the exponential growth of artificial intelligence (AI) has created an increasing demand for AI solutions across a broad range of industries.

Accelerated in part by the global pandemic, businesses and governments around the world are recognising the benefits of becoming early adopters of AI as part of ongoing digital transformation.

A Regional Hub for AI Entrepreneurs

At the forefront of this movement (and as far back as 2017), the UAE government released a first-of-its-kind strategy setting a clear roadmap for developing its regional capabilities and becoming the world’s premier AI destination. And it’s looking to become a game-changer, with the region as a whole estimated to accrue 2% of the global benefits of AI – $320 billion by 2030. As part of that journey, annual growth in the contribution of AI to UAE GDP is forecast to be 20% or higher.

What that means for UAE-based start-ups and established companies alike is that opportunities now abound for future market leaders to create and innovate new business models – the kind which disrupts existing markets through AI-driven evolutions. But if you’re running a start-up or a scale-up looking to leverage the potential of AI, which industries are currently a priority?

The UAE Strategy For Artificial Intelligence has set out its priority sectors, which include: resources and energy, logistics and transport, tourism and hospitality, healthcare, and cybersecurity. So let’s take a closer look at some of these key industries where AI development is already being embraced:


In this sector, the future is already upon us. Depending on where you live in the world, an autonomous vehicle is already (self) parked in a bay somewhere near you (it just might not be road-legal yet). But although they’ve started the journey, and they’re already a long way down the road, they haven’t completely arrived yet. The UAE has plans to make 25% of road vehicles autonomous by 2030, seeing the potential to reduce accidents and cut operational costs.

But there are still some miles to go until the perfection of autonomous driving vehicles and autonomous navigation, so there’s definitely space to innovate. Especially when you consider them as part of the broader, interconnected landscape of sustainable smart cities of the future, in places such as Dubai with its digital transformation program, Smart Dubai. Not only that, there’s also huge potential for the development of other AI-driven modes of transportation, such as boats.


Serving every other sector, the recruitment industry has a long-established relationship with AI, and studies reveal that up to 75% of applications are rejected by an applicant tracking system (ATS) before they’ve even passed the eyes of a recruitment professional. AI-powered scanning has the power to collect, sort, scan, rank applications, and even detect the frequency of keywords to ensure the best fit for the role. Throw audio analysis and natural language processing (NLP) into the hiring mix, and you can see the powerful potential of AI in streamlining and revolutionising talent acquisition.

On the flip side, applicants will increasingly seek affordable AI-driven technologies to help their job applications outwit the ATS in order to get their application under the nose of a human hiring manager.


Online retail was an early adopter of AI, using it to enhance everything from the user experience (UX) to logistics tracking and fulfilment. If you’ve ever shopped online through a major retailer, then you’ll have experienced the AI-enabled systems, which present product recommendations in real-time according to your on-site behaviours. And all that data collected from clicks, carts, searches and purchases also helps AI deliver targeted advertising messages personalised to you.

Most consumers have now grown to expect that personalised experience, which means the door is still wide open for innovative tech start-ups to utilise AI in new and inventive ways to maintain rich end-to-end experiences for customers. Possibilities include anticipatory shipping, where products are prepared for dispatch in anticipation of customer demands, and increasingly automated product descriptions which could even be customised to specific users. In addition, AI can also streamline the supply chain through automation, helping to reduce delivery times and order costs.


There have already been potentially life-saving developments in the use of AI for medical devices. In this field, the focus has been on the earlier and more cost-effective diagnosis of conditions to assist the work of healthcare professionals and improve patient outcomes. Healthcare is a data-rich sector governed by tight regulations, which can impact the time-to-market of new devices.

However, the sheer depth of data available means that AI and machine learning can potentially leverage insights from real-world usage to create smart medical devices, such as diagnostic imaging systems and sensors that can detect conditions such as heart disease and lung cancer. For example, researchers at a UK hospital have developed an AI system that can diagnose heart scans with greater accuracy than human cardiologists, who typically misdiagnose one in five cases. This contributes to an estimated £600 million GBP per year in unnecessary operations. Trials suggest the AI system could save half that figure each year.


With more people working from home than ever before (at least part of the time), the last couple of years have seen a steep rise in security breaches as work is done on less secure networks. AI is a perfect match for some of cybersecurity’s most complex issues, and due to its ability to analyse traffic and patterns, it can detect potential threats and take preventative action more effectively than software-based solutions. Imagine an AI-driven system that continuously monitors an organisation’s systems, analysing huge quantities of data, and feeding intelligence to support detection, prevention, and learning the trends of hackers, even predicting future cyberattacks.

The potential for self-learning cybersecurity AI presents a growing opportunity as the number of connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to increase.

Software Development

There was a time when creating a website involved lots of complex coding and technical knowledge. So when you consider the impact of the low-code and no-code revolution on web design, imagine the potential of ‘drag and drop’ software development. For young children, the technology has already been there for some time, in the form of introductory programming languages such as ScratchJr, jointly developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Users snap together ‘blocks’ of code to create simple stories and games.

Now imagine that simplicity amplified to commercial software development, and you can see the limitless potential for people to create customised AI to automate and solve everyday challenges.

Embracing Opportunities In AI

With worldwide funding of AI start-ups reaching $20 billion USD in Q2 of 2021 – that’s more than double the total for the same quarter in the previous year – there are exciting opportunities ahead for businesses specialising in innovative and disruptive AI technologies.

And with the UAE’s ambitious roadmap to become a regional AI hub already well underway, it provides an ideal and fertile ecosystem for entrepreneurs and start-ups with AI expertise to embrace the opportunities to launch and scale businesses within multiple industries.

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