In a bid to transform Sharjah into capital for education, art and culture, and innovation, Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park) has launched the first edition of the accelerator programme aimed at bringing startups across the MENA region towards the fourth industrial revolution.
SRTI Park has joined forces with Barrabes.biz, an innovation consultancy in Spain, to enable local and regional entrepreneurs as well as global startups to scale up their businesses through education, mentorship, and financing provided by the SRTI Park ecosystem and network.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI Park, said that the programme is aimed at developing and managing an innovation ecosystem within a free zone that promotes research and development and supports the triple helix collaboration among the industry, government, and academia.
The programme focuses on attracting innovative early-stage businesses in the following areas – smart construction management, smart materials, green building, modularisation/prefabrication, building information modelling, additive manufacturing, connected infrastructures and connected ecosystems. “The launch of the programme, at the time of Covid-19 outbreak and economic slowdown, will provide some businesses with some form of a stimulus package,” Al Mahmoudi said.
Moreover, he said that the Park aims to position Sharjah to lead at the forefront of advanced manufacturing and establish its position as a key manufacturing hub while up-skilling the workforce of Sharjah and beyond.
Luis Martín, president of Barrabes.biz, said that Sharjah will become a testbed for fostering advanced technologies within the industrial and manufacturing field.
Successful applicants for the four-month acceleration programme, which started from March 1st, will participate in a ‘selection day’ to be held in mid-June and the eight selected start-ups will get the support they need to pilot, scale, adapt and establish real relationships with UAE’s top corporates through a process of co-creating solutions to address the specific needs of partners.
Al Mahmoudi said the programme will provide teams with over $300,000 worth of acceleration and exclusive business growth services, including living and workspace expenses.
Furthermore, he said the winners will get grant funding, an official entity in SRTI Park, office space at SRTI Park, and exclusive access to SRTI Park’s global network.
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Equal access to opportunities
“We are trying to give them an opportunity so that they don’t have to depend on another company. They can become their own entrepreneurs,” Mariam said.
Quoting a European Commission study, she said that if women were encouraged in the digital sector, there could an increase of 9b euros a year.
“In the UAE, the leaderships support women in any sector,” Mariam said.
Sheraa CEO said that they have supported more than 100 tech startups and out of that, 52% are female-led startups.
“It did not happen by chance. It is because we were so conscious and committed to gender parity and was part of our KPIs. The 100 startups had gone and raised $50m but out of that, only 13% are raised by female-led startups, which mean there is a gap when it comes to access for capital by female founders.
The global average is 2.2% but we are higher than the global average,” she said.
Aoki admitted that raising capital from VC for women-led startups is an issue but the organisation is creating awareness and also accelerator camps.
“Our aim is a world where every girl and woman has equal access to opportunities in STEM and there is no rational reason why they should not pursue career options in STEM if they choose,” she said.