The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) has kicked off 2022 with three new Innovation Programme partnerships, bringing total incentives awarded to date to AED 1 billion (USD 272 million). Fairwater Capital, Frontera Capital and COFE App join a total of 37 companies benefitting from ADIO’s AED 2 billion (USD 545 million) Innovation Programme since its 2020 launch.

Innovation Programme companies operate in high-growth, tech-focused industries, with 13 in the information & communications technology (ICT) sector, nine in agriculture technology (AgTech), eight in health services & biopharma and seven in financial services. The programme is fuelling the development and diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy, led by an innovation ecosystem in which Innovation Programme companies create technological solutions to benefit the region and beyond.

Mohamed Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director – Business Enterprise, ADIO, said: “ADIO’s Innovation Programme is attracting approximately two new fast-growth tech companies to Abu Dhabi every month. Its success speaks to the emirate’s commitment of building an environment where businesses can come together to ideate, collaborate and create. Our 37 Innovation Programme partners are already making an impact regionally and we are committed to helping fast-track their progress by equipping them with the necessary resources and support for growth. With a remaining AED 1 billion of incentives ready to be allocated through the programme, we look forward to welcoming many more innovative companies to our forward-looking community where they can make a real impact globally.”

Partnerships with Fairwater Capital, Frontera Capital and COFE

As part of the Innovation Programme, ADIO has awarded Fairwater Capital, Frontera Capital and COFE competitive financial incentives, including rebates on highly-skilled payroll and allowances and high-tech CAPEX, as well as non-financial incentives, such as support with establishment processes and ecosystem engagement.

Fairwater Capital and Frontera Capital are financial services companies that will advance financial innovation in and from Abu Dhabi. The emirate provides a great base and a gateway for financial services companies to expand, serving as a bridge between time zones, while providing a favourable regulatory environment via the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).

Fairwater Capital was founded in London as a multi-strategy investment manager. ADIO’s partnerships will enable Fairwater Capital to set up its global quantitative research hub, global data centre and operations hub in ADGM to support and expand the range of its investment strategies including credit and renewables.

Paul Lavelle, CEO and Partner at Fairwater Capital said, “We are grateful for the support of ADIO and look forward to working collaboratively with them as we take our business to the next stage. Fairwater Capital is focused on the constant evolution of our team, investment process and developing strategies to systematically deliver consistent alpha to investors. At the core of this evolution is research and data. Abu Dhabi is the ideal hub for harnessing the strengths of the local economy and community and complementing them with outstanding international talent to create an international centre of quantitative research and data.”

Frontera Capital is a boutique investment firm which focuses exclusively on matching international investor risk appetite with domestic funding needs in frontier markets. With ADIO’s support, Frontera Capital will expand its capabilities from ADGM in originating, structuring and distributing frontier market risk through enhanced ADGM-based infrastructure and support.

Vicente Pons, CEO and founder of Frontera Capital, said: “At Frontera Capital, we deploy market-leading research in frontier markets’ debt and FX markets to identify and structure investment opportunities for institutional investors globally. With an extensive global reach, we considered several other financial centres before settling on Abu Dhabi because of the emirate’s business-friendly environment as well as its convenient time zone, central location to a larger number of frontier markets and excellent global and regional logistics networks. ADIO has also shown a strong commitment to support the continuing expansion of our business locally, which will have specific tangible benefits for the ADGM ecosystem in terms of its financial services capabilities and infrastructure, as well as facilitating the financial development of frontier markets generally.”

COFE App is a state-of-the-art coffee-centric application for the beverage market, that provides quick access to a wide range of international coffee franchises and artisanal coffee brands through multiple premium services and features on one platform. COFE App provides 360-degree solutions to coffee lovers looking for a smart way to grab their daily coffee. The partnership with ADIO will see COFE App relocate its global HQ to Abu Dhabi, where the startup will continue expanding the coffee marketplace and place further foothold in the beverage and tech ecosystem.

COFE App Founder and CEO, Ali Al Ebrahim, said: “ADIO’s confidence in COFE App will further pave the way for growth in the emirate. With Abu Dhabi’s strong infrastructure and hunger for all things ‘smart’, coupled with the unique offering we have created at COFE and a diverse and talented global team, I truly believe we are creating an ecosystem that will lead the coffee marketplace into a new era.”

Ecosystem enablement

Since 2020, ADIO has established 37 company partnerships and built an ecosystem where partner companies can collaborate with one another and with Abu Dhabi entities to develop locally relevant and globally exportable solutions. The technologies created by the Innovation Programme companies in the emirate are contributing to the emirate’s economic diversification.

With increasing numbers of companies establishing a significant presence under the Innovation Programme, Abu Dhabi has emerged as the region’s HQ of HQs. ADIO’s support has brought to the emirate Anghami, STARZPLAY, Lyve and Pure Salmon, which have established their global HQs here, and Bespin Global, which has set up its MENA HQ in Abu Dhabi’s Hub71. These companies have chosen the emirate for its ease of doing business, enabling regulations, established infrastructure and deep talent pool, making it an ideal location from which to spearhead innovation.

With 80% of the world’s population within an eight-hour flight of Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s connectivity positions it as a launchpad for companies with global ambitions. In February 2022, Abu Dhabi-headquartered Anghami became the first Arab technology company to list on Nasdaq in New York. It went public at USD 220 million via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, allowing the music streaming platform to scale its user base and invest in technology.

In the AgTech sector, Abu Dhabi has made significant headway in “turning the desert green” through ADIO’s support for innovators that are pioneering desert agriculture solutions. Many of ADIO’s AgTech partners have made significant progress in constructing R&D and production facilities to advance agriculture innovation.

US-based drip irrigation company Responsive Drip Irrigation (RDI) has constructed its production warehouse in Abu Dhabi’s trade and logistics free zone KIZAD and R&D centre in the Al Khatem desert area. RDI has 20+ hectares of trial projects in open field, green houses and indoor farms that are yielding high-quality harvests using less than half the amount of water normally used for irrigation. Down the supply chain, home-grown, tech-enabled farming venture Pure Harvest Smart Farms is seeing encouraging tomato production in its newly built 3-hectare tomato farm in Al Ain and is ramping up commercial production efforts for leafy greens and strawberries in the company’s 1.1-hectare fully-automated hybrid greenhouse and 0.7-hectare R&D facility, respectively. It has acquired significant shelf space in the tomato category and experienced strong consumer adoption. Meanwhile, e-grocery platform FreshToHome has established an industrial, agriculture and trading entity in Abu Dhabi and signed a lease for a 30,000+ square feet, state-of-the-art industrial complex in KIZAD for e-grocery and R&D.

In the ICT space, ADIO’s support for cutting-edge companies is building the emirate’s human capital. These companies are deepening the pool of local and international talent by bringing in specialist skillsets and through education and workforce-building initiatives, thereby creating a multiplier effect in which these companies attract others. The technologies and solutions developed by these companies are expected to enable other innovation-focused sectors.

The digital identity pioneer Callsign, has gained strong commercial traction in MENA securing contracts with UAE banks and a regional pipeline, has invested in an internship programme to attract local talent and is developing R&D partnerships with local universities. Logistics solutions and technology company Lyve was one of the first companies to establish a 100% foreign owned entity on mainland Abu Dhabi and has entered into an office space leasing agreement for its 500+ square metre headquarters in Abu Dhabi. From the emirate, Lyve has hit 100 million deliveries and penetrated new markets worldwide, emerging as a 'super platform' with digital presence at every touchpoint in the customer journey.

Meanwhile, Bespin Global, the cloud company setting up its MENA HQ in Hub71, is also establishing a new office on Reem Island comprising its Cloud Operations Centre and Bespin Academy that will hire over 500 employees, with Emirati internship placements for students from local universities. Bespin Global MEA has achieved the prestigious Amazon Web Services (AWS) Competency (MSP Partner) to become the first AWS partner in the region; won the AWS DevOps Partners of the Year Award for the second time in a row and secured a major deal with a leading energy company in the UAE for end-to-end management of their distribution expansion in Saudi Arabia.