As part of the UAE Innovation Month, which aims to strengthen the country’s position as a global innovation hub and celebrate ‘innovators’ across the nation, four leading Abu Dhabi organizations – The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Miral, Etihad Aviation Group and Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) – supported by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), have partnered with Wamda to launch a new acceleration programme called Fikra Labs.

Aimed at driving innovation and fostering entrepreneurship in the Abu Dhabi travel and tourism sector, the Fikra Labs acceleration programme will provide startups with unparalleled mentorship opportunities and the chance to win a potential monetary investment.

Held at the Etihad Innovation Center, the acceleration programme will take place across multiple phases and is open to startups across the MENA region. Following the initial registration and screening process, selected participants will take part in a four-week incubation process where they will tackle specific travel and tourism challenges set by the four partners. They will be mentored on their ideas throughout, before refining their business plans and developing prototypes in partnership with industry experts and Abu Dhabi’s leading travel and tourism players.

Each partner will select one winner to work with directly after the programme is over. The ultimate reward for each winning startup is a potential USD 100,000 investment by the relevant partner, as well as the unique opportunity to work directly with one of Abu Dhabi’s leading organisations and become an integral part of the Emirate’s travel and tourism landscape.

“ADNEC is pleased to be one of the founding partners of the Fikra Labs initiative, which offers us an ideal platform to accelerate the creation and adoption of innovative ideas in the business tourism sector. In supporting this initiative, we seek to provide an enabling environment for investment in the creative ideas of our young entrepreneurs and turning them into reality. We are confident that investing in creative ideas and maximising their impact on tourism and related sectors will give a fresh impetus to the industry,” said H.E. Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Chairwoman of Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company.

“In a rapidly evolving sector like tourism, it is imperative that we diversify our resources to develop and grow the emirate’s tourism credentials and keep abreast with the constant changes and new developments in our industry. We look forward to working with Fikra’s creative minds and their ground-breaking ideas to address many pressing challenges faced by our industry and turn them into opportunities,” added Ms Al Kaabi.

“As part of our mandate to promote Abu Dhabi as a destination of distinction, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, together with Miral, Etihad Aviation Group and ADNEC, supported by ADGM, has partnered with Wamda to launch this programme to encourage startups to tackle specific challenges in the Emirate’s travel and tourism sector, and to further elevate its business community. We are excited to identify the best talent who will drive innovation and help further transform Abu Dhabi into the leading global hub for travel and tourism, so that we can continue to provide visitors with the best experiences. The programme also reflects the Department’s commitment to supporting the sustainable economic growth of the capital, in line with the government’s Vision,” said H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

“The UAE’s vision in supporting innovative ideas will not only strengthen the economy but will also contribute to the development of many sectors including transport, travel and tourism. Etihad Aviation Group is proud to be part of Fikra Labs as it showcases the current focus on innovation. It also proves the UAE’s commitment towards supporting the youth and developing its economy while increasing its global competitiveness. Through this partnership, we are eager to see what young minds from different trends will offer innovative solutions that will further develop aviation and tourism industry in the region and the world,” commented Tony Douglas, CEO, Etihad Aviation Group.

“This is an exceptional initiative that illustrates Abu Dhabi’s role as a leading financial and commercial hub that supports innovation through opportunities such as Fikra Labs. It gives entrepreneurs the chance to get input on their ideas and innovations from well-established organizations, with the possibility of making them a reality. ADGM offers startups the legal environment, tools and support to build sustainable structures and strong governance, helping them to finance and enhance their growth potential. Access to our growing ecosystem of banks, funds and advisers will provide further momentum for that growth,” remarked H.E. Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Global Market.

All applications received will be reviewed by a screening committee composed of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Miral, Etihad Aviation Group, ADNEC and Wamda, and will be scored according to pre-established judging criteria and scoring metrics.

Applicants with the highest scores will then be invited to a 30-minute interview with the committee, which will learn more about them and check if they have the required technical and leadership skills, motivation, commitment and resilience to make their startups successful. The 32 shortlisted startups will then join a two-day mini boot camp designed as an intensive workshop to help participants develop their business ideas and become pitch-ready. They will then pitch their business ideas to the screening committee who will choose the 12 final teams to be part of a four-week incubation process.

The final day of the programme will be a one-day event in which the finalists will attend working sessions with the Wamda team and industry experts to finalise their prototype, pitches and presentation decks. They will then pitch their ideas to the jury and participate in a Q&A session. The day will conclude with an awards ceremony, where four winners will be announced.

Startups interested in participating in the Fikra Labs acceleration programme can register here and fill in the online application form. Registration closes on March 5th, 2018.

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