Applications are open for the Dubai Future Accelerators third program

A year ago a small circle of people sat with several Dubai government entities for a design thinking workshop. The entities were asked what they thought the challenges for their sectors might look like in the near future. Those challenges were then put in an open call for companies to apply if they think they have what it takes to solve a particular challenge. The companies were given the possibility to come to Dubai and work with a Government that is willing to change regulations if they see a fit. Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) was born.

Dubai Future Accelerators, an initiative of the Dubai Future Foundation, is a place where entrepreneurs who work on the most cutting edge technology are being paired with government entities who aim to disrupt their sectors. This initiative has been developed to prototype testing for emerging technologies. Government entities get to test the new ways of business and technologies by working with international companies that already have this expertise.

Some examples include Hyperloop One, whom DFA brought over from Los Angeles and facilitated the partnership with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to work on Elon Musk’s idea of the fastest means of travel; or UBER with their newest project of VTOLs (=Vertical Take Off and Landing aircrafts), who now also have a partnership and a pilot project with RTA working on executing on the flying taxis idea. DFA is not limited to major startups only, it has hosted companies consisting of 2-man shows, and Fortune 100 companies such as Honeywell. Strategic sectors where DFA aims to solve challenges include health, education, energy, water, security, telecom, municipality services, city planning, which DFA pairs with companies working on Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3-D printing, biotechnology, Tele-health, Robotics, Blockchain.

DFA does not take any equity in the companies, there is no IP transfer, or any other involvement in the business. The aim for DFA purely is to facilitate partnerships between innovative entrepreneurs/companies and government entities, and to accelerate the process and the opportunity to work with a government that is willing to regulate in favor of the new technology.

You really could say that we at DFA accelerate innovation.

Launched in September 2016, two DFA cohorts have taken place so far and attracted in total 65 companies. The first one ran September through December 2016 and hosted 30 companies from 9 countries. 19 MoUs were signed and 14 of the companies decided to either relocate to Dubai or open a second office in the city. During the second cohort, from February to April 2017, 35 companies from 15 different countries were hosted in DFA’s state-of-the-art space in the Emirates Towers. At the closing ceremony 28 MoUs were signed and numerous companies are considering a relocation to Dubai to leverage different opportunities and contacts acquired during their time at DFA.

Now, Dubai is once again calling on the world’s most innovative companies to come to Dubai and join forces with government entities and partners to work on finding solutions for global challenges.

This time, for its third cohort that will be held during 9 weeks starting in October, DFA expands its pool of participating entities and adds two further components to its 10 strategic sectors — social entrepreneurship and aviation.

The social entrepreneurship will be part of the humanitarian accelerator that runs in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Initiatives Foundation. This is a first of its kind initiative in the Arab World. It will connect startups with UAE’s humanitarian sector and will aim to tackle social, cultural and environmental challenges in the region. The focus of the inaugural program will be on job opportunities for refugees, education for refugee children, on solutions for water sanitation in underprivileged countries, and on increasing readership in the region and the quality of Arabic content online.

The other new joiner to the DFA entities is Emirates Airlines. This addition further expands the pool of challenges (by 3 in fact!) and with that the opportunities for entrepreneurs globally to apply and get into the program. All challenges are listed in detail further below.

I am proud to say that in the spirit of forming the future, the Dubai Future Accelerators is not just trying to slightly improve the status quo or fire fight existing problems. Instead it is pursuing truly remarkable projects which, if successful, could impact the lives of millions in Dubai — and, even more important, hundreds of millions around the globe by being a role model and testbed for future solutions.

For more information on the challenges and the application process, please visit Application deadline is July 31st.

Challenges per entity:

Dubai Economy (DE)

Develop an intelligent business rating system to assess and score SMEs based on financial and non-financial parameters, to enhance SMEs’ credibility and increase their access to nance by 100% by 2021.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)

Explore and demonstrate new technologies that can transform a utility provider’s traditional business model of generating, transmitting and distributing water and electricity.

Dubai Health Authority (DHA)

Reduce costs and increase the efficiency and potency of diagnosis, disease prevention and patient monitoring by factor of 10.

Dubai Municipality (DM)

1.) Reduce 75 % of Dubai general waste by 2021. 
 2.) Implement 3D printing technology in 25% of Dubai buildings by 2030. 
 3.) Increase green areas in Dubai tenfold by 2020 through using advanced irrigation and agriculture techniques. 
 4.) Explore opportunities for using nanotechnology in 3 services and operations of Dubai Municipality by 2021.

Dubai Police (DP)

Reduce general crime rate by 50% and traffic related mortality rate to 2.5 per 100 thousand citizens by 2021.


Develop an innovative loyalty platform that can improve customer service and retention by 10.

Emirates Airline

1.) Invent a new fleet of autonomous vehicles tailored to specialist mobility needs of airport airside operations. This fleet should use 100% solar or electric energy instead of fuel and deliver 50% improvement in operational efficiency. Create a next generation, cognitive traffic management platform to achieve ultra-precision in the operation of this autonomous fleet.

2.) Invent a solution to transform the way we teach our cabin crew and the way they learn. Ensure we can move to a personalized yet mass approach, taking into account current and past experience and preferred learning styles. Consider how advanced technologies such as AI, Virtual Reality and on the spot translation can be used to deliver 50% reduction in class room training. 
 3.) Invent a solution to integrate the personalized needs of Emirates passengers across the entire experience chain including chau eur drive, meal selection and shopping. The solution should also dynamically synchronize with all service partners and orchestrate in real-time the entire logistics ecosystem that underpins the passenger experience chain.

Etisalat Digital

Reduce digital risks in the UAE by 50% in the next 5 years by building and delivering cutting edge digital security solutions focusing on areas of Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security, IoT Security or Incident Response.

General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA)

Use advanced facial recognition and blockchain technology to enable seamless transition through Dubai airport without the need for a passport.

Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)
Create self-regulating, future ready school communities to be among the best in the world by 2025.

Smart Dubai Office (SDO)

Using artificial intelligence to deliver city services twice as fast, with half the budget, twice the customer satisfaction