Jeff Thomson
Jeff Thomson

Al Tayer has over 30 years’ experience in the field of telecommunication, energy, and water. He has led DEWA since 1991 and has been a key contributor to its ever-growing success. Jeff Thomson interviews Al Tayer for Forbes Middle East, to get his insights on DEWA’s innovation strategy.

The UAE’s National Innovation Strategy aims to make the UAE one of the most innovative nations in the world within 7 years (i.e. by 2021). How is DEWA contributing to this strategy? 

DEWA has launched many promising programs, initiatives and projects in adherence with the UAE National Innovation Strategy, launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform the UAE into one of the most innovative countries in the world, and to support the Smart Dubai initiative to make Dubai the happiest and smartest city on Earth.

We adopted innovation as part of our vision, and raise its importance to encompass 40% of DEWA’s strategic map. This strategic map also acts as a framework to achieve our vision to become a sustainable innovative world-class utility.

We are keen to share our experiences about exploring the future of energy and disruptive technologies, while developing long-term plans to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It has been said that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is being led aggressively by business and commercial research with bolder, more innovative applications. Which area does DEWA aim to contribute and focus on?   

DEWA contributes to the Dubai Future Accelerators initiative. Over 2,200 companies from 73 countries, in all seven continents, applied for first cycle of the program last year.

We support continuous Research and Development in the energy and water sector.

This is done through incubators that innovate technological models and solutions, develop renewable energy technologies, and review the best international experiences in operating systems, mobile computing, 3D printing, cloud computing, virtualization, distribution systems, software engineering, the Internet of Things, robots, Open Data and Big Data, and using drones in the energy and water sectors.

This will contribute to achieving our vision and strategic plans in different areas, including energy and water smart networks.

During the last DEWA Innovation Week, you mentioned the development of staff abilities to make them innovative and creative. How are you instilling and spreading this culture of innovation throughout DEWA?

At DEWA, we adopt innovation as a major pillar for continuous improvement and development. DEWA has launched an international program for its staff, in collaboration with ExO-Works.

The 10-week program is the first of its kind in the region, and aims to enhance DEWA’s role in shaping the future of energy and water. The program supports the vision of the UAE’s wise leadership to look into the future, as part of government strategic planning.

It also supports DEWA’s role as an incubator of creativity and innovation. During the Innovation Week last year, a number of initiatives were launched to provide an innovative environment for DEWA’s staff. These include launching a smart app called Afkari for staff, through the Smart Office app, which provides DEWA’s employees a seamless experience when completing their tasks, to achieve their happiness.

Ebtikari was also launched to encourage inventors and designers from around the world to present their innovations using our smart platform.

This includes scientific and engineering competitions for inventors, scientists, university students, and engineers to present solutions and innovations in sustainable energy, and water.

The Innovation Week featured a number of activities including the Hackathon, where creative minds from different backgrounds work together to turn challenges into innovative applications and solutions, and the DEWA Future Utility Cup, which attracts modern technologies and emerging companies.

DEWA’s Innovation Week activities include a competition for students to design, build, test and race solar-powered remote-control cars.

The competition promotes the Shams Dubai to encourage the youth to learn about clean energy, in a highly-engaging and creative manner, whilst providing an environment capable of encouraging innovation.

DEWA is leading the way in Dubai’s smart city initiative. What is DEWA’s role in such initiatives? And how is DEWA adopting technology to everyday business?

DEWA is implementing three smart initiatives to contribute to the Dubai Smart City. These include the ‘Shams Dubai’ initiative to connect solar power to houses and buildings, ‘Smart Applications’ initiative through Smart Meters and Grids, and the ‘Green Charger’ initiative to develop infrastructure and electric vehicles stations.

We have already started enhancing our electricity and water infrastructure to be smarter, by using the latest developments in smart grid components and systems.

It will provide advanced features and include automated decision-making and interoperability across the entire electricity and water network. DEWA works with start-ups and accelerators to develop technologies to rationalise energy and water consumption, and implement smarter grids capable of covering generation, transmission and distribution systems.

Who at DEWA is considered the leading agents of change and how is it rolled out within the organization? 

In line with the directives of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, DEWA is developing its leadership skills and promoting excellence in organizational performance.

We believe in the important role of senior leadership in policy development and innovation, by collaborating with, innovating with, and inspiring others. We adopt a clear strategy to provide all employees with the right skills to keep pace with employment needs, according to the latest and best global standards.

We identify projects and strategic initiatives according to change management, which support and accelerate strategic innovation, adopt planning scenarios to deal with variables in their work environment, and build on specific priorities by identifying related risks and their consequences.

Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE, President and CEO, IMA (Institute of Management Accountants)