DAWOOD AL HAJRI

Dubai 2020 | OPPORTUNITY | INTERVIEW

Fostering smart collaboration between youth, SMEs, universities, and global innovators is but the first step toward ensuring Dubai remains a unique and innovative hub.

Dawood Al Hajri
BIOGRAPHY

Dawood Al Hajri assumed the post of Director General of Dubai Municipality in 2018. He is a member of the Executive Council of Dubai. He also oversees six sectors comprising 34 departments, followed by five departments offering administrative support. He began his career as a city planning engineer in the planning department and then held several positions in the same field, including head of the planning section and director of planning department, before becoming assistant director general of Dubai Municipality for the engineering and planning sector in 2016. He holds a bachelor's degree in urban planning and construction technology from the Eastern Washington University in the US. He graduated from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Leadership Development Program and was awarded the Creative Leader Award from the Dubai Government Excellence Program.

What recent developments highlight the municipality's strategy to build corporate capacities and innovation?
In today's world, innovation is inevitable for any organization to survive and progress, especially in Dubai. Dubai Municipality, as one of the leading governmental organizations, is committed to remaining in line with the government's directions, strategies, policies, and regulations, in which innovation is its key theme. Accordingly, and in the context of being an excellent and innovative municipality, we are adopting knowledge and innovation management ecosystems and strategies to ensure our innovation journey is directed in the right way. We have achieved many milestones, such as maintaining the kind of culture that fosters a philosophy of knowledge and innovation management and accepts trials and failures; adopting digital transformation strategies and using the latest technologies like AI, augmented reality, IoT, big data analytics, robotics, and blockchain; collaborating with start-ups and innovation partnerships and designing a continuum of customized motivation schemes to unlock creativity skills; creating customized programs to incubate and nurture creative employees, run innovation lab sessions, and promote concept testing; and encouraging registration of intellectual property through the adoption and implementation of a corporate approach for IP management that promotes impartiality and fairness. Meanwhile, we are also establishing and fostering innovation partnerships with various stakeholders in the public and private sectors, universities, and scientific research institutions, such as FabLab UAE; supporting research and applied studies directed at generating innovative solutions in line with international standards; and applying various motivation schemes to encourage participation in various innovation activities. We ensure that all our practices are in line with the relevant worldwide best practices and have been awarded with various international certifications and recognitions in the innovation management field.

Much of the world now looks at Dubai as a model to be replicated. How does Dubai Municipality embody and embrace this shift?
Dubai is seen now as one of the most prominent knowledge hubs across the world. Our aim is no longer to merely focus on acquiring the latest knowledge and best practices, but toward being creators of knowledge. Dubai is now focusing on exporting knowledge to the world. Human minds have no limits, which is why Dubai and in turn Dubai Municipality aim to create the ultimate environment to attract talent from across the planet and equip them with the latest tools that help them create and innovate. We contribute in this sense through many endeavors, such as encouraging research to be published in international and well reputed journals; ensuring our employees have exposure and access to various international sources of knowledge; adopting smart policies for managing intellectual property; and collaborating with start-ups and knowledge sharing partnerships.

How does Dubai Municipality approach international collaboration and partnerships?
The world has become very dynamic, and collaboration and strategic partnerships have become the fundamental tools to improve business outcomes. And strategic partnerships benefit everyone: businesses, governments, employees, and customers. It is a 360-degree win-win relationship. Dubai Municipality seeks collaboration with both local and international parties, as long as mutual benefits are realized. We also have our innovation partners, with whom we are open up to collaborate in different segments. Dubai Municipality also encourages collaboration and partnerships with SMEs and youth.

What will be the impact of Expo 2020 on Dubai and the UAE?
There will be a sustainable strategic spillover, what we are already calling the post-Expo impact. Through the expo, Dubai aims to embrace and incubate novel ideas and announce a number of unprecedented innovations that will shape the future of the world. On an economic level, we expect the Expo event period to contribute about 1.5% of GDP." About 25 million visitors are expected, contributing AED22.7 billion to GDP. 6