Dubai International Financial Centre given go ahead for massive expansion

15 January 2019

The Dubai International Financial Centre has been given the green light on an ambitious expansion plan which will see the region’s leading financial hub triple in size.

Currently home to more than 2,000 companies and over 22,000 finance, business and technology professionals, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is the leading regional finance hub and one of the most globally progressive. Now, the DIFC is set to triple in size, with approval given for an additional 6.4 million square feet of office space, along with huge new areas of space given to creative, retail and residential activities.

“The financial sector remains one of the cornerstones of our economy,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, on granting approval for DIFC 2.0. “We are keen that the development of infrastructure is matched by the development of legislation by continuously reviewing it to ensure it is among the best in the world and that it can facilitate the best environment for supporting greater excellence and achievement.”

To be completed in several stages, development on DIFC 2.0 will begin immediately as an extension to the current DIFC zone, with a massive 13 million square feet of combined commercial, retail and residential space to be added to the existing 4.8 million square foot plot – developed with a view to attracting the latest in technology. “We are not only trying to meet the requirements of the present time but also be a major contributor to shaping the future of the world’s economy and positively influence greater well-being for the world,” said Al Maktoum.Dubai International Financial Centre given go ahead for expansion planSince its inception as a special economic zone in 2004, the DIFC has guided Dubai to a top-fifteen position on consultancy Z/Yen Partners’ Global Financial Centres Index, while also establishing Dubai as an internationally recognised global leader for fintech innovation, courtesy of a nurturing and progressive regulatory environment and the launch of its flagship fintech hub FinTech Hive – with recent support from Accenture.

Accenture is just one of the world’s leading professional services firm’s active at the DIFC. In addition to more than 80 FinTech sector-related companies located at the centre, all of the Big Four have had a DIFC presence for over a decade, among the first few hundred registrations, joined by the management and strategy consulting likes of A.T. Kearney, McKinsey & Company, and Strategy&.

The new DIFC 2.0 project will be hoping to attract even more of the world’s leading firms with the inclusion of large swathes of open green space, together with direct connections to Dubai’s public transport network and provisions for underground service paths to allow for the free movement of bikes, pedestrians, cars and smart transportation. In addition to the increased office space, the expansion will add 1.5 million square feet of residences.

Speaking on announcement, DIFC governor Essa Kazim said, “The launch of DIFC 2.0 embodies the eight defining principles upon which Dubai was founded, whilst supporting the government’s efforts to foster an environment in Dubai where innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive. Looking ahead, we are excited to continue working alongside our vibrant community, which includes some of the most prominent global financial institutions, to evolve our offering and to support the development of the financial services industry across the MEASA region.”

Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in Dubai

18 April 2019

The Middle East branch of international construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has launched a new innovation hub in Dubai

Following the appointment of ex-Ramboll exec Abdulmajid Karanouhas as its Head of Interdisciplinary Design & Innovation earlier this year to spearhead the firm’s R&D drive in the Middle East, the local branch of German-origin construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has now launched a new innovation hub in Dubai – designed as a collaborative environment to serve both external start-ups and its own employees.

“It has always been part of our corporate culture to promote our own ideas and initiatives,” said Drees & Sommer executive board member Steffen Szeidl. “Increasingly, digital transformation and our clients are calling for completely new and disruptive business models. The Innovation Centre is one of our responses to these challenges. All 3,200 staff members can upload their ideas virtually.”

According to Szeidl, from there, promising concepts and solutions addressing identified market gaps in areas such as planning, construction and operations will be developed, funded and localised for any market which sees the potential. He continues: “Adding the Dubai innovation hub emphasises our status as a global innovation company by being one of the few companies doing R&D in this region.”Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in DubaiLocally established in 2003, Drees & Sommer was founded close to 50 years ago in Stuttgart, since growing to include some 40 offices worldwide, with its global headcount of 3,200 professionals generating revenues upwards of $430 million in 2017. The firm’s offerings span the gamut of real estate and infrastructure requirements, delivered according to its ‘blue way’, which takes into account economic, functionality, and ecological aspects together.

This, for Drees & Sommer, is an important point in the regional context.  “There is a huge demand in this market for contextual solutions as most models and systems are imported from abroad with little to no adaptation to the local culture, economy, and environment,” explains Karanouh. “As a consequence of this approach, we are facing major challenges related to user-comfort, efficiency, manageability, durability, and overall sustainability and feasibility of the built environment in the region.”

Accordingly, the firm has tailored each of its innovation hubs rolled out so far across the world to drive specific initiatives. In Aachen, Germany’s ‘Silicon Valley’, for example, there is a focus on customised smart buildings, IoT product testing and cyber-security, while the firm’s Stuttgart hub focuses on start-ups and processes and its Berlin one on smart cities and smart quarters. The Netherlands hub meanwhile focuses on wellbeing and sustainable innovation.

Karanouh: “The innovation hub brings together specialists of various disciplines from across the industry as a single interdisciplinary team that advises clients from early feasibility studies all the way to operation and revitalisation of buildings to maximise comfort, efficiency, sustainability, return of investment and overall value. The platform allows for brainstorming ideas, identifying market gaps and needs, adapting existing solutions or/and developing new solutions tailored to the local market and environment.”