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Sun 13 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Dubai to become 'next Silicon Valley'

Dubai has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley, according to Kip Knight, vice president of marketing at eBay.

Dubai has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley, according to Kip Knight, vice president of marketing at eBay. "There is an aura surrounding Silicon Valley that it is the seat of innovation but there is nothing stopping Dubai from having that same success," said Knight speaking at the Management Innovation Forum held in Dubai last week.

Knight highlighted the importance of market research in pointing out that one of the keys of innovation is identifying the target consumer.

Another keynote speaker Ricardo Semler, president of Semco S/A, encouraged companies within the region to innovate internally. "Global research shows that only 2% of innovation originates within a company," said Semler who is renowned for his employee-centric management style by which staff choose their own bosses and the books are open to the entire company.

"We are all concerned with industry-wide emulation, but do you think the dollar will dominate the stock market in 20 years time? No way," said Semler, amid increased calls for the GCC to revalue its currency and move away from the dollar peg. "Dubai and any other city shouldn't just emulate America as the American model is already becoming outdated. It's fine building a Florida here but what about Dubai's own forms of innovation?"

Ahmed Bin Brek, Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Ventures CEO, also drew the distinction between emulation and innovation: "It's not necessarily bad to apply global ideas locally but we also need to keep ahead of ideas globally." Bin Brek was speaking as part of a panel discussion comprising local representatives from leading innovative organisations. MAF Ventures, a subsidiary of MAF Group, are renowned in the region for their innovative projects which most notably include Ski Dubai, the region's first indoor ski run.

"We encourage innovation within the company by continuously inviting our stakeholders, customers and staff to come forward with their ideas," said Bin Brek. Accompanying Bin Brek on the panel was Yaqoob Al Zarooni, Chief Officer Human Capital, Dubai Properties, who talked about how the company opens the floor to its employees to participate in progressive initiatives through the Human Resources Department. "We have several scheme in place such as the Employee Suggestion Scheme and the Employee Reward and Recognition Program to encourage employees from the janitor level to the top to come forward with ideas," said Zarooni.

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