How the seeds of innovation are bearing fruit one year after the Abraham Accords
September 06, 2021
When the Abraham Accords were inked last autumn, they represented a tectonic geostrategic shift in the Middle East. In signing the normalisation agreements, the leaders of the United States, UAE, Bahrain and Israel, followed by the agreements to normalise relations with Morocco and Sudan weeks later, set a new tone that is reverberating around our region, one defined by the joint pursuit of peace, stability, security, prosperity, and co-existence for our peoples.
In recent months, our political leaders have continued to build upon the progress of the accords. Steps such as inaugurating direct flights, opening embassies, and exchanging high-level delegations are laying the infrastructure for a peace that flourishes.
For those of us in the high-tech and innovation community, the diplomatic normalisation of relations between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel is already bearing fruit.
According to Israel’s Chamber of Commerce, trade between these countries for 2021 is expected to reach $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion), and up to $5 billion by 2024. Start-Up Nation Central is naturally emerging as the one-stop gateway to connect the Arab Gulf to Israeli tech solutions. In April, we were honoured to host the first UAE Ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, and launch a joint task force aimed at bringing people together to share ideas and generate solutions and economic value for both countries. This was followed by a visit of the UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Mariam Bint Mohammad Al Muhairi, at our Tel Aviv headquarters in July. The visit resulted in the decision to set up a framework to address shared food and water security challenges in the UAE. Under the terms of the framework, Start-Up Nation Central will scout and map the Israeli innovative solutions and the ministry will connect them with the relevant Emirati companies and government initiatives that can benefit not only the region but all of humanity. Furthermore, we hosted Bahrain’s Undersecretary for International Relations Shaikh Abdullah Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa in August, when he met with Israeli and Bahraini youth to showcase the power of civic engagement in promoting peace between the two nations.
The key ingredient to success is to invest in more bridge-building. Our flagship example of this is the UAE-IL Tech Zone, an exclusive platform aimed at building technological, entrepreneurial, business, venture capital, and government collaborations between the UAE and Israel. Launched in December 2020, the community has already connected more than 2,000 business, innovation, and technology leaders. The seeds of innovation that are being planted in 2021 promise to bear exciting fruits for many years to come.
Open and thriving commercial ties between Israeli and Gulf firms that would have been almost unthinkable a year ago are becoming routine. Earlier this spring, Israel’s Delek Drilling signed a memorandum of understanding with Mubadala Petroleum - part of a conglomerate owned by the government of Abu Dhabi - selling its share of a large offshore gas field for $1.1 billion. Last month, DisruptAD, the venture capital arm of the Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ, co-led a $105-million Series B investment round in Israeli AgriFoodTech company Aleph Farms, a maker of cultivated meat that grows steaks from modified cattle cells.
But it’s not just the mega-deals that matter. At Start-Up Nation Central, we are also working to make the benefits of the Abraham Accords accessible to businesses of all sizes. Our Start-Up Nation Finder Business Innovation Platform is a free online platform for identifying and engaging Israeli tech organisations based on customers' specific interests. It provides users with the most up-to-date information on Israeli start-ups, investors, acceleration hubs, multinational corporations, and technology-based innovation associated with academic research.
To date we are deeply encouraged by the volume of GCC-based user queries on Finder. The platform’s data reveals that searches originating from the UAE have tripled since the signing of the Abraham Accords. The huge rise in usage of the platform by Emirati businesses, organisations and individuals indicates the growing interest in opportunities for doing business with Israeli companies. Among the tags that people in the UAE most commonly searched for on the platform were cybersecurity, fintech, and agtech. We are proud to be playing a key role in helping businesses learn each other’s needs and culture to establish ties that create mutually beneficial cooperation. We trust that Finder will help users gain a stronger understanding of Israel’s tech ecosystem and are confident these connections will foster new economic ties that bind our countries together. According to Finder data, 72 Israeli companies are currently engaged in commercial activities in the Gulf, spanning sectors as diverse as life sciences, agritech, cybersecurity, and fintech.
From artificial intelligence (AI) fitness equipment firm Bo&Bo to 3D Signals, a company that helps manufacturers digitalise their machines to become industry 4.0 factories of the future, Israel’s tech ecosystem is both excited and energised to be taking a leading role in the new era in the Middle East. Many of the entrepreneurs and investors we have connected are parents of young children. They understand that the ties being forged as a result of the Abraham Accords are not only good for their generation but they convey an invaluable example to the next generation: That the future of the Middle East belongs to those who seek peace, tolerance, cooperation and innovation and put in the time, effort and resources to see it through.