Innovation: A risk worth taking?

11th July 2019
Garald Todd
Client Director & KSA Lead

There is no disputing that the Middle East has quickly become a hub of innovators, pioneers and risktakers. Dubai’s Vision 2020 had the goal of attracting 20 million visitors a year, up 8 million from when it was announced in 2012, resulting in the emirate building the tallest building in the world, the biggest observation wheel in the world and even the biggest fish tank in the world. Dubai is embracing selfdriving taxis, multiple man-made islands and mega malls. The idea is that as Dubai moves away from its dependence on natural resources, it can still thrive and be a worldleading city, relying on tourism, its innovative healthcare industry and investment in everything new.

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In fact, the Middle East overall is becoming renowned for its vision and ambitions. Bahrain has been working towards their Vision 2030, an economy not built on oil wealth but a globally competitive economy. Oman is wrapping up their Vision 2020 and is getting set to enact Vision 2040, which will integrate all it has achieved so far even deeper into their society. An interesting thing to remember is that a vision is an aspiration and should include things that do seem too ahead of its time but should none the less be aimed for to truly gear its host country up for the future.

That brings us to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and their Vision 2030. KSA is at a particularly exciting juncture in their history, and the developments of Vision 2030 should be followed closely, as it will be the first to achieve plenty of firsts. KSA has a vast amount of untouched land, workable infrastructure and an abundance of futuristic ideas – the perfect ‘blank slate’ if you will. Being home to Mecca, KSA has a well established religious tourism sector and are planning to welcome 30 million pilgrims by 2030, but the country is also keen to attract non-religious tourism too. Take the Red Sea Project, for example, a luxury tourism destination on, until now, untouched land – meaning they have to start from scratch: building roads, identifying energy sources and creating airports to support the project. The benefits to this, of course, are that’s we can implement the latest technology, methods and materials to ensure that the infrastructure is ready for for the future.

One of the main attractions of the Red Sea Development is set to be offer 3,000 hotel rooms across five islands; there has even been talk of self-sustaining hotel pods. Now, there has been some success in recent years of small homes being made that rely solely on themselves for heating, cooling and electricity, yet nothing to the scale of hovering over the ocean, in the middle eastern heat and functioning as a luxury hotel room. It is this type of innovation, driven by a futurefocused vision that will drive this development to remain relevant well into the future.  Forcing our industry to embrace innovation, take risks, make mistakes and continue with our rapid rate of change is essential in preparing for the future and keeping up with the changing expectations of societies.

Societies in general benefit from innovation – the currently under construction, Metro in Riyadh will be fully autonomous, have 6 lines and 85 stations. This sudden availability of transport and connection across an entire city is going to greatly increase people’s access to necessities like health, employment and education and, maybe more importantly, to the things that fulfil us as people and meet our everchanging expectations such as dining, watching the latest blockbuster and social gathering.  KSA has also set targets of developing 149 art galleries, 45 cinemas, 44 parks and much, much more all in just over ten years with no retrofitting or having to adapt current buildings – ambitious yes, but is it worth the investment and taking the risk now? Absolutely yes.

After all, a pioneering spirit is the core of our human nature and is the constant that has driven us to where we are today.