UAE ranked as global leader in innovation, healthcare comes out on top

As business slowly returns to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a new report shows that the country’s business leaders trust in the nation’s ability to innovate, with advances in healthcare leading the way.

According to the 2020 GE Global Innovation Barometer, UAE executives have ranked the GCC country as a global leader in creating an “innovation-conducive environment”, with 79% of those surveyed stating that healthcare outperformed all other sectors with respect to innovation progress, setting “a great example for others to follow on speeding up innovation”. Meanwhile, 85% cited innovation’s vital role in protecting people’s health and well-being.  

Healthcare was seen as the top industry to make significant progress in the past six months, said 62% of UAE business executives – compared to 52% globally. Other sectors named to have made progress in innovation include high-tech and IT, telecoms and communications, and media and culture.


This year’s GE Global Innovation Barometer surveyed over 3,400 business executives across 22 countries, with one round concluding in February 2020 and another taking place in September. The second study was added in order to assess “changes in global sentiment” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at all sectors, the report showed that 56% of UAE business executives believed that the coronavirus pandemic “led to the pace of innovation to increase or stay the same”; however, only a third (34%) said there had been a positive impact on the ability of their business to innovate.  

On a global level, the report showed that 40% of business leaders across the world endorsed the UAE’s enabling environment for innovation, ahead of countries including Finland (38%), India (37%), Italy (37%) and Malaysia (32%). 

The top five countries believed to be leaders in enabling innovation-conducive environments are the United States (73% of those surveyed), Japan (70%), China (68%), Germany (63%) and the United Kingdom (53%).

Meanwhile, those surveyed in the UAE align with the global sentiment that “innovation should deliver long-term positive societal or environmental benefit”, with over 70% agreeing that it is  more important than short-term profitability. In fact, the importance of societal impact has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost 88% saying it is “more important than ever for innovation to focus on public health and the challenges facing society”.


Looking ahead, UAE business executives told the GE Global Innovation Barometer that  innovations using artificial intelligence (AI) will be “even more important post-COVID” with 77% agreeing that AI and machine learning will be important “because of its benefits to the working experience”. 

“With UAE businesses viewing innovation as a strategic priority, especially in the midst of the pandemic, it is important to promote governmental and industry collaboration to drive localised innovation,” said Dalya Al Muthanna, president and CEO of GE Gulf. “UAE executives value the societal impact of innovation and are increasingly drawn to AI to propel it forward. 

“This is a strong testament to the successful vision of the UAE in creating an environment conducive to innovation, especially by harnessing the possibilities of advanced technologies.”

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