Oct. 30, 2018

Khalfan Juma Belhou

UAE, Dubai

Khalfan Juma Belhou

CEO, Dubai Future Foundation (DFF),

TBY talks to Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), on the role and mission of the organization, Dubai 10X, and 3D printing.


Khalfan Juma Belhoul is the CEO of Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), which was launched by Sheikh Mohammed to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Dubai. Prior to his current role, Belhoul was VP of Strategy at Dubai Holding, where he was responsible for formulating Dubai Holding’s strategic direction and enhance its investments and role in the diversification of Dubai’s non-oil economy. Before joining Dubai Holding, he founded the Belhoul Investment Office, responsible for rolling out a sophisticated asset allocation strategy spanning private equity, alternative investments, real estate, and conventional assets. Belhoul holds a BSc in finance, M.I.S, and a master’s degree in e-commerce, all from Boston University.

What is the role and mission of DFF?

DFF is an entity, or as I like to call it, an engine that is mandated to enable both the public and private sector alike to adopt new technologies, acquire advanced skills, and always be above the curve when it comes to the latest technologies and future trends. Sheikh Mohammed once said, “The future is not built on possibilities and numbers but on clarity of vision, planning, action, and implementation." With that in mind, this outlined a far-sighted approach that placed future readiness at the very core of what we do in the foundation. DFF was established just over two years ago to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Dubai through our three main pillars; Platforms, Thought Leadership, and Future Projects. Our role is to be the catalyst in prompting change and promoting innovation, and we do that by bringing together individuals, organizations, and government entities to share that vision and to implement the reality. We inspire and draw together thinkers, visionaries, and creators to help ideate the future. One of the ways we do this is through the Dubai Future Academy, where we invite industry pioneers and experts in the latest fields of blockchain, artificial intelligence, sustainability, IoT, 3D printing technologies, and autonomous transportation to equip coming generations and leaders with the right tools and knowledge to anticipate future trends and always be ahead of the curve. We believe that education is collaborative and an ongoing journey for one's self-development. We also provide the environment and resources needed to promote disruptive, positive change through incubating and prototyping, which can be seen in another of our initiatives, the Dubai Future Accelerator program. Through a nine-week period, the program provides a platform for government entities, startups, and well-established companies from around the world to explore and test solutions that address future challenges within each sector. Such challenges range from water safety and security to 3D printing organs and even providing jobs for refugees. Another of our platforms that promotes collaboration is Area2071, a physical and digital ecosystem that supports public and private sector disruptive collaborations and experiments. Area2071 is strategically linked to the UAE's Centennial Vision 2071. It aims to solve challenges for the next billion people by producing system-level, disruptive questions, and experiments. The solutions to these questions are co-created through collaborations with a wide ecosystem of public and private x-labs, startups, accelerators, incubators, venture capital, and academia.

With Dubai 10X, Dubai is positioning itself as a laboratory for governments of the future. What is the vision behind Dubai 10X?

Under the direction of Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai 10X has been designed to positively challenge every government entity to think outside of the box, disrupt their existing processes, and design a better future within their sector. Our vision is that Dubai achieves today what other world cities will implement in 10 years. In just 365 days, 36 entities made more than 160 propositions, of which 26 have been approved. For example, one of the 36 participating entities is KHDA, which is disrupting the schooling and education sector through a system in which a student is no longer confined to a physical space in a school. KHDA has now launched a pilot project called “Rahhal," which was founded on the idea that the world is one big classroom. It is a customizable platform that aims to turn any organization into a learning provider, and to turn people into lifelong learners.

Which industries in Dubai stand to benefit most from the implementation of a wide 3D-printing strategy?

3D-printing is clearly the future of not only building and construction, but also healthcare and education, which is why the DFF and leadership realized its significance. We are aiming to become a global leader in 3D printing, and Sheikh Mohammed has pushed us to the limits by setting a 3D printing strategy, whereby 25% of all buildings constructed will be 3D-printed by 2030. From 2019 onward companies will need to use 3D-printing for at least 2% of production in order to obtain a license to build. It will start by 3D-printing small objects like door knobs and frames, moving gradually to larger parts and building materials. This shows that the vision is not merely a dream we are looking at but one we are actually prepared to execute.