“The Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) plans to provide financial support aggregating AED 100 million (US $27.2 million) for the year 2018,” revealed Haitham Kamhiyah, CEO of Emirates Development Bank, the host and operator of the fund in an interview with Wamda, following MBRIF’s strategy meeting with partners from the Ministry of Finance and members of its Advisory Board.
MBRIF is a federally-sponsored initiative conceived and sponsored by the Ministry of Finance to support local innovators in accessing affordable finance through the provision of a government-backed guarantee. Financing ticket sizes range from AED 1 million ($272,250) to AED 10 million ($2.7 million).
“The fund is in line with the UAE National Innovation Strategy (Vision 2021), with the aim to place UAE among the top 10 most innovative nations in the world. Currently, the UAE is ranked 35th on the Global Innovation Index as per 2017,” he said.
The AED 2 billion ($544.5 million) fund was announced in November 2015 during the UAE’s inaugural Innovation Week which sought to showcase a variety of innovative initiatives across federal and local levels of government and within the private sector.
Kamhiyah announced that MBRIF is currently evaluating a plan to disburse AED 22 million (almost US$ 6 million) among shortlisted innovative companies in the UAE in Q2 2018. “Details will be shared once these are past the evaluation stage,” he told Wamda.
He explained that the UAE is strongly focused on achieving its National Innovation Strategy that seeks to develop an environment that promotes and enables innovation by advancing the right regulatory framework, providing comprehensive enabling services, enhancing the technology infrastructure, and ensuring adequate amount of investments and incentives.
“The Fund also has a global mandate encouraging foreign innovators to relocate to the UAE and register their business locally to foster a robust knowledge economy, encourage job creation, and nurture an environment that promotes a culture of innovation across the nation,” he explained.
Specific areas that MBRIF focuses on include: Technology, renewable energy, water, healthcare, education, transportation and space. Other sectors that can influence and contribute to the country’s social and economic progress are also taken into consideration.
In 2017, MBRIF announced a AED 2 million ($540,000) investment in InternsME, a UAE-based platform to connect interns with career opportunities. “MBRIF also approved two more deals which we’ll announce about soon,” Kamhiyah revealed.
Key eligibility criteria to apply for the MBRIF include: Having a registered business and a substantial base in the UAE, the business may be owned by an Emirati or an expatriate, the business should be innovative and at a post-ideation phase, and the company should have an optimal debt/equity capital structure, and demonstrable financial forecasts to reflect debt repayment capability.