LEAP22: Saudi Arabia unveils over $6.4bn in technology and startup investments
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LEAP22: Saudi Arabia unveils over $6.4bn in technology and startup investments

LEAP22: Saudi Arabia unveils over $6.4bn in technology and startup investments

NEOM Tech & Digital Co. launches XVRS cognitive metaverse and M3LD data management platform as part of a $1bn investment

Divsha Bhat

Saudi Arabia has announced over $6.4bn in future technologies and entrepreneurship investments. The announcements were made during the opening day of LEAP, the international technology platform, which is taking place in Riyadh until February 3.

The investments and initiatives include the launch of Aramco Venture’s Prosperity7 fund with $1bn and a billion-dollar investment from NEOM Tech & Digital Company focusing on future technologies. Prosperity7 provides its portfolio companies with the funding and connections to scale and enter new markets to attain global reach.

Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said: “Prosperity7 will connect the dots through big ideas, top talents and disruptive technologies from around the world as we look beyond the energy value chain to areas like healthcare, education and blockchain, for viable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”

As part of its investment, NEOM announced the launch of XVRS, a digital twin metaverse platform, where virtual reality merges with physical to create immersive mixed-reality experiences. Joseph Bradley, CEO of NEOM Tech & Digital Company, said: “The future will be defined by cognitive meta cities. It is a vision focused on experiences rather than scale. XVRS puts human needs at its core – it is designed to give people more time, space and enhanced safety. M3LD, meanwhile, will place data ownership back in the hands of users and restore trust in the data economy.”

Meanwhile, stc announced MENA HUB, a $1bn investment in submarine cables and data centres infrastructure, which will support the kingdom’s rapidly expanding digital and cloud sector. The company also revealed a new strategic partnership with Huawei Technologies Company, which will see manufacturing facilities for data centre equipment and hardware to boost the kingdom’s capacity in the high-tech industry, create local supply chains for technology hardware and increase the adoption of new technologies by Saudi businesses.

LEAP also saw the launch of ‘The Garage: Start-up District’, a combination of physical location, startup incubator, accelerator and more, that will provide startups with grants, investment, marketing and training support, full-service workspaces, in addition to access to deep-tech labs, talent and research networks, amongst other incentives to empower local and international startups to become the leading technology companies of tomorrow. The Garage aims to launch startups with local and international potential.

Furthermore, J&T Express Group, one of the logistics companies, announced an investment of $2bn with eWTP Arabia Capital and other partners. The investment will see J&T establish its MENA headquarters in Riyadh and provide sorting centres, auto warehouse systems, air cargo terminals, e-commerce industry parks, and other modern industrial facilities and related infrastructure.

President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, said: “The logistics infrastructure and facilities that will be established through this partnership will not only accelerate the growth of distribution and cargo in Saudi Arabia but will also leverage our geographic location at the heart of the Middle East and North Africa to make Saudi Arabia into the leading centre for advanced logistics services.”

“In the next 10 years, together with eWTP Arabia Capital and other strategic partners, J&T will invest in the most advanced hardware and software equipment in Saudi Arabia, train the most outstanding professional team, build the largest intelligent logistics industrial park in the MENA region, serve the entire regional market, and promote the comprehensive development of the local technology-driven industrial economy,” said Jet Lee, founder and chairman, J&T Express Group.

The Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), a multinational organisation established to enable digital prosperity for all, launched the DCO startup passport to make it quicker, easier and less expensive for startups to do business across borders, opening up potentially lucrative markets with a combined population of more than half a billion people. The startup passport provides expedited entry and support in the markets of eight DCO countries. The initiative will be rolled out initially in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

Deema Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, said: “The startup passport reduces administrative and financial burdens and accelerates corporate registration and other processes for entrepreneurs. Through this passport, they will be able to enter the markets of other DCO member states. This will further our mission of coordinating efforts and sharing expertise to grow the digital economy for the benefit of all nations.”

The DCO also endorsed Elevate50, an initiative launched to support 50,000 small to medium-sized enterprises to sell their products online over the next three years. Supported by the Jordanian e-commerce platform MakanE, Elevate50 is projected to generate 5,000 jobs and specifically target businesses run by women and young people.

“These investments and initiatives are a manifestation of the kingdom’s push toward the growth of the digital economy for the greater good of people, the planet and the prosperity of the MENA region. They mark the next level of growth for the digital economy in Saudi Arabia, the MENA region’s largest technology and digital market,” said Eng Abdullah Alswaha, Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

During his keynote address at LEAP22, the Minister noted that Saudi Arabia is the regional leader for technology talent, with over 318,000 jobs in the technology sector in the kingdom, and with a rate of participation of women in the ICT workforce that has jumped to 28 per cent in recent years.

Saudi Arabia is also home to some of the largest investments in cloud technology, with hyper-scale cloud providers including Google, Alibaba, Oracle and SAP investing over $2.5bn in the cloud in the kingdom.

Entrepreneurship is also flourishing, with venture capital investment in Saudi Arabia in 2021 exceeding the total for 2019 and 2020 combined.

Read: Saudi’s Royal Commission for AlUla launches autonomous pod vehicle service

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