French multinational Thales Group has been working in the United Arab Emirates for more than 40 years. The company, which has operations in 68 countries, is known for its work in sectors as diverse as ground transportation, security, defence and aerospace.

The Paris-headquartered group has recently made its relationship with the UAE economy even stronger by creating Thales Emarat Technologies. A 100% local Emirati company – launched with the express purpose of integrating within the UAE’s business and industrial sectors – has built its success upon partnerships with local organisations; such as the new one with Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem.

Verdict interviewed Bernard Roux, CEO of Thales in the UAE, to find out how the company plans to work with tech startups at Hub71 and how it has achieved success so quickly in complex sectors such as aerospace.

Why is investing in local partnerships important to Thales?

Startups bring new technology, new work methods, new enthusiasm to the table, which not only challenge us, but inspire us. There is the presumption that startups can’t exist in space, defence, security, transportation, space or aerospace industries because of the high costs of entry, which is simply false. Every day we see small companies come up with cutting-edge innovation, regardless of industry.

Investing in startup development is how we continue to develop and build our technical capabilities and our national competencies. In fact, investment in this budding talent creates incredible job opportunities in the UAE and further develops the local industrial ecosystem. It is only through strategic investment in industry, education and innovation that we can ultimately be assured of long-term success.

How did the Thales and Hub71 partnership form?

The UAE has been at the forefront of the tech boom in the Middle East. We really believe that young Emiratis should be supported to develop technologies that can be integrated into the industrial ecosystem, creating value and economic impact. In terms of vision, education and a focus on innovation are shared values between Thales and Hub71, and this partnership supports our joint mission to empower local youth to develop ideas that harness technology and solve real-life challenges. An example of this is that Thales has just launched an annual challenge to engage entrepreneurs and students from local universities. This year’s challenge was a hackathon, where participants leveraged the power of maintenance 4.0, to bring industry 4.0 to the forefront and to bring a high-scale, complex system to ultimate availability.

The other aspect where this partnership was a natural fit is that the UAE has always fostered a strong culture of entrepreneurship, and with a relatively young population, naturally there is a strong startup mentality all across the country. As businesses around the world have been affected by the pandemic, the UAE government has shown remarkable support for the country’s startup ecosystem by announcing special stimulus packages for startups.

Can you explain more about Thales’s work in education in the region and its importance to the group?

As we navigate through the current global health crisis, investment in education is a priority for us. I believe that knowledge exchanges between governments and large companies like ours encourages industry in the region. An example of this is the Sustain and Enhance Emiratisation in Defence and Security programme. This is the latest sustainable education initiative of the industry enabler, Tawazun Economic Council. The programme aims to offer international companies the chance to meet their business and recruitment objectives through job placement programmes for home-grown talent. And just as importantly, it ensures students are given the opportunity to shine in an industry they are really passionate about. It’s a win-win strategy.

Over the last few years, we have partnered with Khalifa University Abu Dhabi for The Thales Cybersecurity Hub and have entered a joint venture with the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, in the form of CERT Thales Institute. Furthermore, we have teamed up with Sorbonne University of Abu Dhabi for the creation of an industrial chair in the field of Artificial Intelligence and the establishment of Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence.

To learn more about how your startup can gain access to benefit from strategic partnerships in the UAE, head to: