Thursday 09 December 2021 - 4:17:44 am

Ministry of Economy explores mechanisms to develop space economy, investment, tourism opportunities


ABU DHABI, 28th October, 2021 (WAM) -- Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, along with Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, held a meeting with Brent Sherwood, Senior Vice President of Blue Origin, the aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight service company. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of AzurX, a Dubai-based technology and strategic sectors investment company, Strategic Advisor to Blue Origin in the Middle East.

During the meeting, Bin Touq emphasised that in line with the directives of the wise leadership, the Ministry of Economy is keen to enhance promising global partnerships with leading private institutions in vital future and sustainable economic sectors. This will help achieve the strategic objectives in terms of driving transformation towards a sustainable and resilient economic model to keep pace with future trends across the various sectors, while focusing on the pillars of knowledge, innovation, high-tech and advanced digital technologies, along with new economy sectors including space economy, he noted.

The two sides discussed promoting collaboration to explore new investment opportunities in space economy and space tourism services, expanding the scope of R&D in space to develop the emerging space technology in UAE. These efforts will focus on enhancing partnerships with the private sector by supporting the applications of Industry 4.0 and space innovation in a bid to boost the enablers of the UAE’s future economic development.

"In line with the goals of the UAE Centennial 2071, the national economic vision for the coming era focuses on enhancing the role of enablers in new economy sectors, and bolstering space as one of their drivers. The Ministry is working with its partners to establish an open economic ecosystem that attracts investments to target sectors and stimulate innovative companies to support sustainable development and create an advanced investment environment. Through this collaboration, we look forward to leveraging Blue Origin’s leading expertise in space manufacturing and space and low Earth orbit flight services to support the UAE’s plans. We are also keen to expand the scope of our partnerships with Blue Origin to build and develop space tourism and enhance the national efforts in this respect," Bin Touq added.

The minister highlighted the UAE’s main achievements in space as it became the region’s first country to develop an integrated space ecosystem and advanced infrastructure and corporate frameworks in this regard, and launch missions to explore the space such as the Hope Probe. "Today, the UAE is home to several major space companies, offering excellent opportunities to start-ups in capitalizing on the potential of operating outside the Earth’s orbit. We will move forward with our efforts to attract the companies operating in this field to become partners in driving growth and advancement of UAE’s space economy," he noted.

Bin Touq further reviewed the indicators reflecting the UAE’s pioneering position in this vital sector, having successfully joined the global space race. The space sector’s added value in the UAE has reached approximately AED3 billion, and the country’s investments in this sector have amounted to AED22 billion to date. The sector provides more than 3,200 jobs, and over 57 space companies and entities are currently operating in the UAE, including international and start-ups, and 5 space science research centers. Throughout the recent years, the UAE’s total foreign trade of aerospace vehicles and their parts has reached AED190 billion.

Meanwhile, Al Falasi explained that the UAE is strengthening its position as a destination for innovation and pilot projects from all over the world. He pointed out that the country has the knowledge and institutional environment, vast experiences, stimulating policies, infrastructure, and advanced technology to be a regional and global hub that attracts companies operating in future sectors, including space, which opens many economic opportunities during the next phase, especially for SMEs and startups based on innovation and technology. He highlighted the importance of partnership with the private sector in enhancing activities and business in this sector, including the cooperation with Blue Origin and its partners in the field of space flights and related technology, and enhancing the UAE’s position to be a destination for space tourism.

The two sides agreed on developing a cooperation plan through which Blue Origin contributes to supporting and accelerating the strategies and plans of the Ministry of Economy in these ambitious future areas. The plan also focuses on developing the space economy environment in the country, defining new paths to create investment opportunities in the field of space and space tourism in the country. It will contribute to the development of a future methodology and strategy to enhance the contribution of this sector as a key pillar within the new economic model in the country and to raise its future competitiveness at the regional and global levels.

During the meeting, Blue Origin highlighted the most prominent economic and industrial opportunities related to space tourism and space activities related to low Earth orbit. The company shed light on its pilot project ‘Orbital Reef’, which was launched during its participation in the International Space Conference 2021 in Dubai. The project is being implemented in partnership with several international companies working in the space field. Orbital Reef project includes the development of launch stations for commercial and tourist space flights, which will provide access to space for interested visitors and contribute to promoting the growth of markets in space research, manufacturing, media, entertainment, and tourism.

In addition, Blue Origin expressed its interest to establish such stations in other regions around the world other than its station based in Texas, USA. The Minister of Economy affirmed the readiness of the UAE to set up any infrastructure and take all necessary measures to establish the station in the UAE’s territory and launch space flights from here, in a manner that enhances the country’s position as a new global destination for space tourism. Both sides discussed opportunities for collaboration between Blue Origin’s foundation Club for the Future to engage and inspire the UAE's next generation of space professionals.

Brent Sherwood said, "The space activities associated with low Earth orbit provide significant and promising opportunities for visionary countries and companies around the world. The Orbital Reef project’s mission aligns with the vision of the UAE to develop the infrastructure for the economy of future, enhancing cooperation opportunities, and bringing the world around through trade and development partnerships.’ Anna Hazlett, CEO of AzurX, said, "The AzurX team is proud to assist Blue Origin in exploring Orbital Reef and space tourism in the UAE. We look forward to developing this exciting program with Blue Origin and the Ministry of Economy, and bringing opportunities to the UAE, Emirati visionaries, entrepreneurs, and businesses."

Blue Origin, founded in 2000, is one of the world's leading companies in the aerospace industries and space and orbital flight services. The company supports the development of technology to facilitate access to space to make these flights more possible with significantly lower costs. Blue Origin has taken a gradual approach, from suborbital space flights to orbital flights, as it has developed several diverse technologies to serve this goal.

WAM/Esraa Ismail