How important is facilitating and encouraging innovation in the scope of the Chamber’s overall operations?

HAMAD BUAMIM: The UAE government announced the year 2015 as the “Year of Innovation”. We realize the importance of innovation for us going forward, and to be able to start to promote innovation for the business community, we have to lead by example. That’s why we realize that we have to start to address the way we provide our services and try to create an innovative environment within our businesses.

This is what we’re trying to raise awareness of among our staff, about innovation and how important it is and how to do it. It’s a journey; we are still at the beginning of it. We are starting to raise more and more awareness to the business community by bringing in experts from different parts of the world to talk to them about this and by demonstrating and rewarding the companies that will succeed in showcasing how innovative they are compared to others. Innovation has a lot of opportunities and we see it the future of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

What specific initiatives centered on innovation has the Dubai Chamber launched or promoted to its members?

HAMAD BUAMIM: Dubai Chamber has all of the services and smart applications. We also have the African Gateway smart app and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum business award.

One thing we changed in terms of our services, we made all the services that Dubai Chamber provides based on smart applications. So right now, all of our members, all of our customers, can access our services and they can find information about market intelligence and about different businesses in Dubai using the smart application. So this is one way of providing our services in a different way and it is one way also to becoming more and more innovative in terms of providing our services.

Also, through our Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum business award, we are rewarding the companies that demonstrate business excellence and innovation, and this is a very important change in our rewarding program. We’ve started to provide market intelligence through applications such as the African Gateway, providing our members and investors information through an innovative way. These are some of the examples how Dubai Chamber is trying to lead by example to the business community.

The MRM Business Award has been expanded to include companies throughout the GCC. How will this geographic expansion help foster innovation throughout the region?

HAMAD BUAMIM: We realize there is a lot of interest from many companies throughout the Gulf that would like to participate in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Award, and also the fact that a lot of our businesses are not only local nowadays but they are regional.

So this is why we felt that it is about time where we look at this market beyond just the city of Dubai or the United Arab Emirates and to the whole Gulf and try to learn also from some of the best examples that exist out there beyond our boundaries. This is why we expanded this award. We started to see very good results in the first round.

How open are established companies to adopting innovation?

HAMAD BUAMIM: We believe that the area of innovation is still a new area for us, for this part of the world. Some businesses are already innovating in their own way. However, we need also to showcase these successful models for others so everybody can learn from them. This is what we’re trying to do through the Chamber and a number of events we are hosting in innovation going forward, it’s to raise the awareness of what can be done to showcase some of the successful local businesses that are doing innovation in a good way and they are getting results out of it. We hope going forward, we start to see more and more businesses paying more attention to innovation.

Is Dubai’s business environment conducive to supporting innovation?

HAMAD BUAMIM: Dubai’s environment definitely is leading by example when it gets to a great business environment; it’s quite advanced and has a lot of international best practices. This is where, with the area of innovation, it’s important to address it from the top, from the leadership, putting it in the strategy of the country and the strategy of the city, and showcasing it for others, and especially for the elements with the business community, to demonstrate how important this issue is and why we need to pay more and more attention to it going forward.

We believe we have the right environment for different industries. This is where I see supply chain and logistics, trade, hospitality, areas where competitive advantages already exist in Dubai and it might be areas where it starts to innovate and export these models to our regional countries.

Going forward, what role do you see Dubai playing in the region in terms of business innovation?

HAMAD BUAMIM: We believe after 50 years with Dubai Chamber of Commerce leading this business community, we reached a level where our businesses started to mature and we need to move away from just being an imported economy, where we import everything in terms of goods and services, to creating our own. This is where the opportunity of innovation is becoming viable for us. Right now, we believe that the business community, the consumers are ready for that and we definitely need to take advantage of the current business environment to start to do more in this area.

Right now, we have to move away from just manufacturing things into services, and I think this is where Dubai excels. It’s beyond just building things; we are maybe much better when it gets to services. When you look at this region, Dubai has a standard, a service standards. I think this is something that we need to start looking into exporting, in terms of executing things, in terms of providing a service, in terms of excellence. These are areas of opportunities that can be addressed with innovation going forward.