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Dubai opportunities for Scottish tech firms

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19 March 2019 | Cade Wells

Dr Cade Wells, Business Development Manager, CENSIS

Dubai is famous for its constantly evolving skyline. Now, more than ever, the way that skyline is being built is changing too.

With that could come real opportunities for Scottish businesses – particularly those with a highly-exportable product or limited market opportunities in the UK. For example, Dubai and the wider Middle East use much more concrete and steel in buildings than companies in Scotland. Of course, like construction anywhere, there are challenges that need to be addressed – particularly around efficiency, productivity, and health and safety.

Now could be the time for Scottish tech firms to look seriously at Dubai as a new market – and even as a launchpad to break into the wider Middle East. Heriot-Watt University, which already has a large presence in the city, is establishing a construction centre of excellence and, on a recent trade mission, the growing appetite for new technologies and ways of working was clear. This could well be the initial foothold Scottish businesses are looking for.

Here are four examples of opportunities for Scottish technology companies interested in selling into the Dubai construction industry.

Safety first

Health and safety will always be a primary concern in construction – and that’s no different in Dubai, where standards are improving all the time. Globally, the Internet of Things (IoT) is being explored as a potential means by which construction workers can be kept safe, through connected equipment and a better understanding of where they are on site. Any Scottish businesses with technology applicable to health and safety could find willing buyers in Dubai.

Building at speed

Projects in Dubai are expected to move quickly – any delay to the critical path can be frustrating and expensive. Greater adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has a huge potential. As part of the BIM process, creating a digital twin for a building can speed up the construction process and spot snags before they occur, smoothing out the overall build and improving productivity.

Prevention is better than cure

Construction equipment breaking down can cause delays and prove very costly wherever you are. However, in Dubai there are different means of hiring contractors and individuals as sub-contractors, who often come with their own plant. That can present risks – particularly if you don’t know the state and history of the equipment. Fitting this equipment with sensors, which monitor its condition and pick up on anomalies, can alert workers to take preventative measures before it breaks down and halts operations.

Satellite Imaging

At the early stages of a project, being able to measure the size and contours of a site is helpful – particularly if, like at Dubai’s Expo 2020, it measures 438-hectares. At the same time, while rain may be fleeting in the Middle East, when it does arrive it tends to cause challenges. Satellite imaging could help by accurately measuring a site and its evolution, along with the flow of water, and help designers build in features which can mitigate any flooding or other issues.

Dubai is well known for its ambitious construction projects – not least the Burj Khalifa. Yet, the adoption of advanced IoT technology in the industry is still in its early stages. While there are some differences in how business is done, the so-called City of Gold could be a golden opportunity for Scottish tech companies with an interest in construction.

This article was originally published in Insider, 12 March 2019.