By Tamara Pupic
Sheraa launches its state-of-the-art co-working space in the American University of Sharjah.
Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre – Sheraa, the UAE’s first university-based accelerator programme, announced its first cohort of start-ups at the launch of its new state-of-the-art co-working space held on Wednesday.
The unveiling of Sheraa’s new facility in the American University of Sharjah and the announcement of the start-up teams selected for Sheera’s first entrepreneur accelerator programme were made in the presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairperson of Shurooq and Sharjah, officials from various departments at the Sharjah government, and more than 150 guests.
The new Sheera headquarter spans 650 square meters and serves as an expansive co-working space to foster creativity among aspiring entrepreneurs. The open plan space includes an in-house coffee shop, a seminar room, and a coding room - a ‘skill-development’ academy aimed at bridging the skills gap between the university and workplace.
In addition to hosting workshops and expert talks, the new hub will house Sheera’s flagship accelerator programme, which offers the teams a free trade licence for at least a year, a Dh35,000 grant, access to potential customers and the crucial mentorship sessions.
The three-month scheme’s first accelerator programme will start on October 15.
Speaking at the launch event, Najla Al-Midfa, general manager of Sheraa, explained that the invigorating environment reflected Sheraa’s approach to inspiring the next wave of entrepreneurs: “Our new space harbors an energetic atmosphere, where the creativity and problem-solving skills of the youth will be harnessed to create innovative business ideas.
“We strongly believe that infusing a positive entrepreneurial spirit in today’s youth - through their immediate surrounding and resourceful guidance - will help identify their roles in the thriving start-up community.
“We are committed to ensuring that when young members walk out of this beautiful facility, they imbibe the relevant skills, wealth of mentorship and the confidence to make the world a better and stronger place.”
The launch event featured two panels. During the first panel, young entrepreneurs spoke about how their colleagues could benefit from the new Sheera platform.
The second panel, which was moderated by Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, founder of The Barjeel Art Foundation, featured Nitin Anand, director of Skyline University College, Prof. Hamid Al Naimi, chancellor of the University of Sharjah, Dr. Muhadditha Al Hashimi, director of Sharjah Women’s Campus Executive Dean – Health Sciences, and Dr. Björn Kjerfve, chancellor of American University of Sharjah.
Sultan Al Qassemi opened the panel discussion by asking how universities could foster entrepreneurial culture in the country. Dr. Kjerfve responded by pointing out to a lack of collaboration between universities and the private sector. “Unfortunately, universities are not very collaborative, but an opportunity exists, especially with regards to serious, long-term research projects. The big missing piece in the UAE is the lack of significant research in important projects, which requires funding.
“Entrepreneurship and research are not the same thing, but research can be entrepreneurial, and that is what we want to accomplish.”
Anand added: “It is cultivating mindset change where universities can play a role. It is about the mindset of teachers and professors that today knowledge is not in power point presentations, but in the way they teach students.
“What are they getting extra in your class? However, innovation cannot be taught, but fostered by the environment the students are in.”
The event also featured young Emirati artists Afra Atiq, the first Emirati female spoken word poet, and Ayesha Al Humeiri, the UAE youth ambassador to Germany and opera singer.
Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center) Sheraa – ‘Sail’ in Arabic - launched in January 2016, under the patronage of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi to provide a launch pad for aspiring young entrepreneurs in the UAE.
For more information, please visit: www.sheraa.ae