Editor's Choice Fintech Ecosystems Middle East & Africa

NDTI: Guiding the Next Wave of UAE Innovators to Global Influence

The UAE has established itself as a frontrunner in the fintech innovation space, boasting a market currently valued at $39.3billion in terms of transaction value, as reported by Mordor Intelligence. Emirates NBD, a banking group in the MENAT region, aims to further bolster and expedite this growth with the launch of its National Digital Talent Incubator (NDTI) programme.

The NDTI is not just an incubator; it is a strategic initiative aimed at steering the next generation of UAE-founder fintech companies towards global influence. Participants of any nationality are welcome, with the caveat of having an Emirati founder or co-founder at the helm, to continue to drive local digital talent development. The inaugural eight-week cohort features four promising fintechs, chosen to amplify innovation in the region through a comprehensive programme.

The programme sets itself apart through a diverse range of exclusive engagements. Founders are invited to participate in the Decision Maker Series, connecting directly with Emirates NBD’s senior leaders, to shape strategic visions.

Recognising branding as often overlooked, the programme has integrated a pioneering Brand Masterclass, led by the Group Head of Branding, featuring immersive classroom sessions, real-world case studies, and personalised coaching – a rarity in incubator programmes.

Backing this programme are industry giants such as DIFC Innovation Hub, Visa,Microsoft and Dell Technologies. The programme partners will work closely with Emirates NBD to facilitate the programme,hosting immersion days with subject matter experts, offering invaluable sessions and mentorship.

The programme will extend regionally with a pivotal trek to KSA, where founders will be welcomed into the vibrant fintech ecosystem, fostering connections with Saudi startup pioneers. The pinnacle moments arrive during COP28, where participants engage on the world stage in panel sessions, and later, in a private graduation ceremony, forging lasting bonds with bank leadership and partners.

This comprehensive experience offers an unparalleled blend of strategic learning, real-world exposure, and high-level networking opportunities, elevating participants to new heights of entrepreneurial success.

Accelerating the UAE’s frontrunning position

NDTI will build upon an already burgeoning ecosystem and prepare the region for the next wave of innovators in fintech.

NDTI builds upon an already thriving fintech ecosystem, exemplified by the DIFC‘s 36 per cent increase in fintech memberships since 2022, taking the total number to 686. In addition, the innovation hub is home to 17 of the world’s top 20 banks, five of the top 10 insurance companies and five of the top 10 asset managers globally. NDTI participants are joining an atmosphere that is brimming with innovation and potential.

And this trend will not stop at the end of 2023 – it is set to grow. According to research from Statista, digital investment in the UAE fintech market is set to grow by $10billion in the next four years reaching, $25.12billion. Earlier this year, the region also began accepting applications from companies intending to provide cryptocurrency services, once again showing the future-thinking nature of the UAE.

Abdulla Qassem, group chief operating officer, Emirates NBD
Abdulla Qassem, group chief operating officer, Emirates NBD

Abdulla Qassem, group chief operating officer, Emirates NBD, said: “We are extremely pleased to launch the NDTI programme in collaboration with our long-time strategic partner, DIFC. The launch of this unique programme reinforces Emirates NBD’s commitment to accelerate innovation, boost local talent and entrepreneurial growth in the region.

“As a leading local bank that has always championed innovation and contributed towards growing the national digital economy, we are confident that our new incubator programme will help in
catalysing economic development and innovation in the financial services industry and the UAE economy as a whole.”

He added: “Most incubator programmes around the world focus only on driving product innovation. Emirates NBD’s NDTI programme stands out as it has been designed to enable participants to broaden their skillset, network and influence, to better understand key trends shaping the economy and create businesses that significantly impact the local and global economy. We are providing participants with a toolkit to translate their ideas into impactful innovations and the support to grow them to scale.”

This is only the beginning

Throughout the eight-week programme, the companies will focus on a variety of different topics including the varying types of innovation and value creation processes. They will also delve into key trends shaping the economy and government around them, the principle of rapid prototyping and customer validation feedback. The significance of identifying the first customer and selecting the right co-founder will also be discussed in the programme.

NDTI is not only going to inject and accelerate innovative minds into the region once though. A second cohort will run between March and May 2024.This is a testament to the UAE’s commitment to shaping the future of finance.

Keep up to date with the latest NDTI developments and learn more


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