Under The Patronage of
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II
2018 AmCham MENA Council Annual Conference & Exhibition
“Commercialization of Innovation: A Driver for Growth in the MENA Region”
October 27-28, 2018 – Grand Hyatt Amman, Jordan
Under The Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II and in the presence of HRH Princess Sumaya Bint Al Hassan, AmCham Jordan in its capacity as the current Chair of the AmCham MENA Regional Council hosted the Council’s Annual Conference under the theme; “Commercialization of Innovation: A Driver for Growth in the MENA Region” on October 27th-28th in Amman, Jordan.
Through its nine sessions, the Conference shed light on different perspectives of innovation, from legislative frameworks that promote the evolution of innovative ideas, to the different market dynamics that prevail within the region. The Conference also focused on strategies that assist in building modern and sustainable economies highlighting regional and global case studies of how innovation can boost economic activity and drive economic growth. Additionally, the Conference assessed existing opportunities and hurdles facing SMEs and measures required to create innovation-powered enterprises in the region. Sessions addressed latest innovations in sectors including; Energy, Healthcare, Information Communication & Technology, Education and Finance.
More than 60 speakers and subject matter experts flew in from throughout the region and the United States to address the Conference’s sessions and enrich its discussions. The Conference was attended by more than 300 AmCham members from Jordan and the MENA Region, U.S. government officials, business leaders, multilateral financing institutions supporting innovation in the region, key players in the entrepreneurship scene, academia, regional government agencies and media representatives.
The Conference, was supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and attended by Senior Vice President, Middle East & Turkey Affairs, Khush Choksy who gave the welcoming remarks, emphasizing the importance of strong inter-regional cooperation and the role of the U.S. Chamber in boosting trade and investment between MENA countries and the U.S.
Representing the U.S. Department of Commerce was Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Sarah Kemp, who gave the welcoming remarks that focused on the role of the U.S. in supporting the region’s entrepreneurs and bolstering economic activity.
Representing the MENA Council Regional Secretariat was AmCham Egypt President, Tarek Tawfik, who outlined his vision for a stronger region highlighting that the private sector has an important role to play in helping change the role of the government from the main provider of employment to an enabler of private sector activity and a driving force for innovation.
During the first session, H.E. Marwan Jumma, Chairman of Oasis 500, engaged with speakers representing AUC Venture Lab, Wamda, Kawar Group, JOPAC and Mawdoo3, in a well-structured discussion assessing the dynamics that prevail within the regional entrepreneurship eco-system and ways to unlock the region’s potential. The session also addressed the best practices and investor recommendations to support and enable the growth of the region’s escalating start-up ecosystem. Panelists discussed the three main components that with the right configuration will contribute to create an enabling environment for investments and entrepreneurship, these include; policies, education and funding.
Session two, illustrated the gaps in funding available for MENA startups and enterprises wanting to develop innovative products and shed light on the different roles of VCs, Angel Investors, Banks and the Governments. Mr. Sharief Fahmy, Managing Partner at Burgeon Ventures LLC, UAE and Chairman of AmCham Abu Dhabi, moderated the discussion featuring; Jordan’s Central Bank Governor, H.E. Ziad Fariz and representatives from regional SME funds including; Egypt Ventures, Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund, and Badia, and looking at financing trends for startups, and the role of regional Central Banks and special funds in facilitating access to finance. The session tapped the ecosystem of entrepreneurs and start-ups and the support needed to sustain them. Panelists discussed the fragmentation of business communities and how burdensome business regulations come with heavy compliance costs, highlighting the importance of basic business support services, mentoring and best-practice strategies to achieve a complete integrated ecosystem for those communities.
Her Royal Highness Princess Somaya Bint Al Hassan was the Keynote Speaker over the Lunch session. As President of Royal Scientific Society of Jordan and Deputy-Chair of the Higher Council for Science and Technology, HRH shared her perspective on public policy issues relating to science and technology, stressing the importance of innovation as a tool to advance societies.
The Conference’s third session, “How to Build a Resilient Business in the MENA Region” shed light on ways of strengthening the entrepreneurship eco-system, from legal frameworks and frameworks that protect investment in innovation to ease of market access and exit. Panelists highlighted some of the existing challenges that still remain and hurdle the adaption and continuity of businesses in the MENA region and how IP laws are still outdated and the need to speed up their enforcement. Panelists discussed the value of utilizing a frame work that will provide ease of market access and exit strategies. Panelists suggested embedding technical people/practitioners into the legal system in order to fill the gaps of the exiting legal framework, therefore leading to a legal structure that will enable the growth of business.
The audience listened to a special presentation by The Honorable Charles Frank Bolden Jr., (USMC-Ret.), Department of State’s Science Envoy for Space (USA), who later joined Session Four which addressed “Policies and Strategies that Encourage Spinouts: The US Model”, which shed light on the different approaches and mindsets needed in order to keep up with the rapid, frequent changes and the dependent on new arising IPs that are changing the ecosystem. Panelists discussed the need for impact sourcing; linking the startup world with the big enterprises in order to bridge the gaps in the ecosystem. Panelist also shed light on the importance of diversity, inclusion when developing an economic growth model introducing disruptive innovations.
The Conference’s second day, featured sector specific sessions on innovation. Session 5, titled “ICT Innovations for SMEs” shed light on how small companies which develop and use their internal strategic resources effectively such as managerial and workforce skills, ICT, R&D, and collaborate with external partners in the innovation system, have better innovation performance and how the adoption and effective use of ICT hardware and software is a form of business innovation. This session also shed light on how digitalization accelerates the diffusion of knowledge and is enabling the emergence of new business models, which may enable SME’s to scale very quickly.
Session 6 titled; “Reshaping the Business of Financial Services” discussed digital finance and explored the impact of it on financial inclusion and financial system stability, exploring several ways of how technology is reshaping the financial services sector, such innovations include Mobile wallets which enable consumers to make their payments via smart phones. Panelists discussed the need to take important steps towards increasing security factors and confidence in mobile wallets, allowing mobile wallets to be authorized without disclosing credit card details but also emphasizing on the need to innovate and search further for factors that will cater to mobile payments. Panelists also shed light on the importance for business to get on board and how in this evolving landscape, mid-sized firms face the greatest pressure, highlighting on the need for organizational agility, taking proactive approach to innovation either through collaboration or investments.
Session 7(A) titled; “Accelerating Innovation in Energy and Environment Technologies”. This session highlighted how innovation is a key driver in the transition to a low – carbon economy and how technological change and development will significantly lead to a wide range of options leading to achieving global climate change goals. Panelists also mentioned the need for the government to have a role in creating an attractive environment for research, development and demonstration of new technologies and innovations. Panelists emphasized on the need for well‐designed strategy to accelerate innovation and set the appropriate frameworks to allow for energy breakthroughs.
Session 7(B): “Educated Insight: The Reinvention of Learning”, addressed innovations in education and how they are of particular importance as education plays a crucial role in creating a sustainable future and how these innovations are intended to raise productivity and efficiency of learning and improve learning quality. Panelists discussed the need for finding new technological methods and incorporating them into the educational system to better teach and engage students and create motivated learners. The role of gamification in today’s learning system was highlighted; an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments, making the learning experience more visible therefore increasing its impact.
Session 7(C) addressing “Bringing Innovation to Health Care Systems in the MENA Region” panelists noted that policy makers take into consideration three factors; access, quality and cost, when it comes to reinventing the healthcare system in the MENA. This session viewed the role of innovation in collecting, managing and analyzing data, as well as evaluated the latest technological innovations allowing for more affordable, higher quality care in the MENA region. Panelists discussed the need for initiatives to empower primary care physicians and grow the scope of primary care centers by merging today’s technology into the healthcare system. The session also addressed AI in innovative sourcing to reduce cost, drug design and repurposing, target discovery, and efficiency in conducting clinical trials. Panelists emphasized on the importance of adopting innovative approaches to reduce costs, enhancing efficiency, and provide a positive alternative to current methods towards quality health care services.
Additionally, an Exhibition showcasing innovations by local and regional enterprises was held on the sidelines of the two-day Conference presenting participants with first-hand examples of innovative ideas and products that inspire growth and job creation.
Following the Conference, a MENA Council Board meeting was held to discuss the activities of the Council during the coming period, under the Chairmanship of AmCham Jordan.