CONSTRUCTION PORTFOLIO OF EVENTS
Highlighting the huge potential of green design to the construction sector, award-winning Egyptian architect Sarah El Battouty, an ambassador for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), delivered a keynote speech at the inaugural Global Construction Impact Summit, which took place Wednesday at Dubai World Trade Centre.
El Battouty, a UNFCCC high-level climate champion and founder of ECOnsult, addressed disruptors, innovators ESG advisors, and policymakers ahead of a panel discussion exploring mobilizing the real economy through the UNFCCC’s Race To Zero campaign. The Summit is taking place at the third day of the Big 5, the largest and most influential building and construction event in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Running from 5-8 December, this year’s Big 5 show features more than 2,000 exhibitors from across 60+ countries.
“The MENA region is incredibly rich with ideas and energy and resourcefulness,” said El Battouty, who has 18 years of experience in the field of green and environmental buildings and sustainable development. “The impact of such a huge sector as that of construction – from the onset of the concept, all the way to the value chain and delivery – has enormous potential: Potential for R&D, potential for financing, and potential for innovation. That is why summits such as these are so important because they can open up discussions surrounding all these topics.”
El Battouty also used her platform to urge attendees to address the issue of women in the construction sector and the role of rural communities. “A young generation of women are going into STEM research, and we also must not forget that rural communities play a huge role. Race to Zero and Race to Resilience open up these conversations and prompt a more inclusive approach.”
Also taking place on the penultimate day of the Big 5, Start-Up City – supported by Dubai Chamber Digital, BuiltUp Ventures, Enterprise Greece, and Contech Construction Innovation Centre – hosted a keynote panel discussion looking at the regional investment landscape and how government, incubators, and start-ups are tackling what is seen as one of the healthiest and fastest-growing ecosystems in the world.
Taking part in the panel discussion was Abe Sebsek, CEO at Startupbootcamp, Hirsham Akbar, Program & Partnership Manager- Industry 4.0 at Plug & Play, Antonis Gravanis, Director at Enterprise Greece, and Sali Elagab, Programs Manager at Shorooq Partners.
According to Sebsek, the regional investment outlook is healthy: “If we consider what is happening globally where some valuations are dropping and funding is a little harder to secure, there is a lot of money being deployed here in the region to good companies with solid ideas. My belief is that ideas always get funding if you have something special and show a willingness to work for what you believe.”
Hisham Akbar cited that although selectiveness is becoming more common, money is being invested in key industries; “There is a lot of money being deployed into good companies, and the landscape is healthy in industries such as fintech, logistics, construction, and digital. It has become a more selective environment, but with businesses still raising good seed rounds, venture capitalists are veering more towards how a product or idea can offer long-term traction instead of buying into hype, which has been a traditional indicator.”
Antonis Gravanis from Enterprise Greece had a positive outlook for outbound investment and said his company sees start-ups as a way to further grow the economy. “Talking from a government perspective, Greece is back in the positive and start-ups are a catalyst for our further growth,” he said. “We have seen a significant increase in Greek companies investing more in exhibitions such as the Big 5, and we are always open to supporting them however we can. Also, working with partners such as the UAE to drive investment further is crucial and with the country being so hospitable for foreign investors, that is why the market here is so healthy.”
Also taking place is the Start-Up City Competition, where several pioneering contech, proptech, infratech and energy start-ups from 21 countries presented their business cases to a panel of judges in the hope of securing prizes from the Big 5 and its partners including Dubai Chamber Digital, ALEC Engineering & Contracting, The Founder Institute, Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction.
Speaking on their partnership, Khalid Al Jarwan, Executive Director, Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, said: “Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy is proud to partner with the Big 5’s Start-up City, which we see as an ideal platform to engage with start-ups that are reshaping construction and take the pulse of the sector. The strong interest and participation in the event reflects the rise in entrepreneurial activity and growing demand for advanced digital technologies in the market that are helping companies boost productivity and stay competitive. It has been great to see the innovative solutions and concepts being showcased at the exhibition and competition.”
Miami-based Togal.AI, a start-up bringing artificial intelligence to construction, was the outright winner of this year’s Start-Up City competition. Togal uses machine learning to automatically calculate the square footage of areas and complete full take offs and manages complex construction documents with online collaboration — compressing weeks of work into seconds. According to Togal, their platform can cut large construction and contracting firms’ workloads by 40 per cent, resulting in millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work saved.
Thrilled at winning not only the cash prize and first place but also sharing the second and third place cash prize, Patrick E. Murphy, CEO of Togal.ai, said; “It has been an amazing experience taking part in the Start-up City Competition, and we’re grateful to the organizers and sponsors for providing us with this opportunity. This win is monumental and crucial to the future of the company, and it only gets bigger and better from here. We look forward to spending more time in the Emirates as we look to grow our business further.”
More than 2,000 participants from 60 countries are taking part in the event this week, which hosts 20 national pavilions – including Italy, KSA, Turkey, Greece, Germany and many others – bringing together the key stakeholders from across the full construction value-chain to network, learn, and do business.