Sector-specific opportunities


You should carry out as much market research and planning as possible before exporting to the UAE, using both desk research and visits to the market. You need to determine if there is a market for your product or service and whether your pricing is competitive.

DIT’s trade specialists can help you identify local representatives for your products in the UAE. See:

DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Find export opportunities in the UAE at:

Government tenders in the UAE

Government tenders are accompanied by a bid bond, an unconditional and irrevocable letter of guarantee issued from a local bank. This is typically in the form of an unconditional bank guarantee for between 5-15% of the value of the bid. 

Prior registration with the respective government entity is often a requirement to be eligible to bid. You may be required to have a local agent, and provide bid and performance bonds. By the time a contract is ready to be signed you will probably need to have a local presence. 

Government procurement places heavy emphasis on selection of the lowest bidder, as long as the lowest price bidder is compliant with all technical and vending specifications.

The Dubai Expo 2020 – the next world expo – expects to be visited 25 million times, with 70% of all visitors expected to come from outside the UAE. Contact the Expo 2020 Helpdesk to learn about upcoming public procurement opportunities, at: at Dubai Expo 2020.

The UAE has many other opportunities in addition to Dubai Expo. Check out the Ministry of Finance portal at:

[Source – DIT/]


Airports and aerospace

The Middle East is a thriving market for aviation and airport developments.

Aviation is the lifeline for Dubai’s growth and presently constitutes 27% of Dubai’s GDP. The three Gulf carriers are the top-three fastest-growing airlines globally. There is an ever-growing demand for innovative and cutting-edge products and services. This offers immense potential for aviation companies across the board.

The UAE's airport developments constitute a HVO for DIT in the UAE. Huge opportunities exist around airport developments at Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA) and Abu Dhabi International Airport (Phase 2).

AMIA is a projected build for 220 million passengers annually. UKEF issued a US $2 billion letter of interest for AMIA in July 2014.

There are £5-10 billion of potential contracts on offer to UK primes and supply chain over the next decade.

Airbus and Rolls Royce have very close relationships with Emirates and Etihad Airways, as well as successful partnerships with Strata and AMMROC.

Strata was established in 2009 to meet the demands of the 21st century aerospace industry, created through the formation of strategic partnerships with world-class aircraft manufacturers, such as Airbus, Boeing and Leonardo S.p.A. Aero-structures Division. The company has evolved to become a tier one supplier to FACC AG, SAAB and S.A.B.C.A.

 [Source – Mubadala]

Contact Trade and Investment Adviser: for more information on airports and aerospace.

[Source – DIT/]


Defence and security

The UAE has a large defence and security budget. Defence procurement is led by the Emirates Defence Industries Council (EDIC) at: who favour working with international primes for large contracts. Contract negotiations can be lengthy and complicated, with an offset threshold of US $10 million. Opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be found within these bigger supply chains.

Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 to diversify the UAE economy has led to an increase in activity in the aerospace, (defence) manufacturing and space sectors. These all offer opportunities for UK defence companies.

DIT provides ongoing support to SMEs working in the security sector in the form of interface with local law enforcement agencies and large contract opportunities such as high value opportunities (HVOs).

Cyber security is an area of concern to local industry and government departments. DIT is in the process of scoping opportunities that can be targeted by UK PLC's.

The UK Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) issues licences for the export of strategic goods. You must check your goods are meeting legal requirements for export. See: for more information.

Contact First Secretary of Defence and Security: for defence, or Trade and Investment Adviser: for security information.

[Source – DIT/]


Education and training

Education is one of the UAE Government’s top priorities. It is keen to build a knowledge-based economy and position itself as the academic hub in the region.

British curriculum schools are in demand. DIT is working with the UAE authorities to bring new and quality British schools to the UAE. UK universities in Dubai hold the highest proportion of postgraduate students and ten UK universities are represented in the UAE.

The UK has worked with UAE authorities for UAE-wide recognition of UK Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) qualifications. Progress has been made with mutual recognition of FE and professional qualifications. New licensing authorities have been established for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) providers:

  • Qualifications and Awards in Dubai (QAD) for Dubai

  • Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET) for Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates

Mapping of UK and UAE qualifications will open up opportunities for quality UK TVET institutions to do business in the UAE and the rest of the GCC.

Other opportunities include collaboration in developing:

  • curriculum setting and capacity building

  • qualified and skilled teachers and teacher training, particularly in Arabic

  • leadership training and capability/professional development

  • innovative ideas to help equip UAE youth with skills in research and discovery methodologies

Contact Trade and Investment Adviser: for more information on education and training opportunities across the UAE.

Check also the UAE Ministry of Education site at: for the latest education initiatives and opportunities across all Emirates of the UAE.

[Source – DIT/]



Oil and gas

The UAE has the world’s 7th largest reserves of both oil and gas. Production is currently around 2.79 million barrels per day (bpd), with targets of 3.5 million bpd. This makes Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) techniques and technology very relevant to the UAE.

The UAE has both onshore and offshore oil reserves, which are operated under concessions. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and its 15 subsidiaries manage the oil and gas supply chain:

The Upper Zakum offshore oil field is in the process of a large expansion project. Refinery projects continue to see investment as lower oil prices encourage the market to get smarter and more efficient.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is investing AED 400 billion over the next five years in exploration, development and production of oil and gas and petrochemicals projects to enhance growth opportunities.

The country’s crude oil is mainly shipped by a fleet of oil tankers and exported primarily to Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. Abu Dhabi National Tanker Co. (ADNATCO) is the sole company responsible for transporting the UAE’s oil to the world. National Gas Shipping Company Ltd. (NGSC) was also established to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) on behalf of Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Company (ADGAS).

Even though economic, environmental, and safety considerations have necessitated the increasing need for diversifying energy sources, oil remains the most cost-effective demanded source for energy for most countries, and several Emirates have launched programmes to bolster energy efficiency and encourage energy conservation, reflecting the growing public awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions. Some of these directly involve the oil and gas sector.

The UAE provides numerous opportunities for international oil and gas companies to operate on both downstream and upstream operations, including innovation and environment protection etc. Some of the major international companies working in the country include British Petroleum, Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, REX oil, Schlumberger and Partex. See: for the latest details.

The Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) on 12th -15th November 2018 is one of the world’s largest oil and gas exhibitions. It offers UK companies the chance to develop new business opportunities as the UAE government and international oil companies will be present. See: for further information.


Four nuclear reactors are scheduled to commence operation by 2020.

This will be the first nuclear power in the UAE provided with local stakeholders:

As these plants are commissioned there are likely to be numerous supply chain opportunities. Experience in working with APR 1400 models or similar reactors would be an advantage.


Current UAE energy capacity can only meet half of the demand by 2030. For this reason, tapping into new sources of energy has become an economic necessity in order to cope with the increasing population and economic expansion. The UAE today is focusing on renewable energy for several reasons: the long duration of sun exposure and the frequent winds and storms, the high percentage of greenhouse gases produced from oil and gas extractions, and the high quantity of oil and natural gas readily available to produce electricity. The UAE’s innovative energy strategy aims to diversify the sources of energy generation and secure the UAE’s prestigious position in the future.

The renewable market in the UAE is therefore growing rapidly with public targets set and local businesses participating actively in this evolvement. There are many projects being led by MASDAR and Dubai Water and electricity authority. One initiative is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer model. The project supports the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, to transform Dubai into an international hub for clean energy and green economy, by providing 7% of Dubai's total power output from clean resources by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050.

See also the MASDAR site at: and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) site at: for details on further renewable projects in the UAE.


Environmental sustainability is highlighted as one of four priority areas in the UAE’s published targets and also in Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Economic Vision:

There is a current drive to manage energy usage. Campaigns and products which reduce usage could be well-placed to do well in the UAE. Please refer to opportunities and efforts on this sector, for example by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency at: and the Dubai Municipality Beaa in Sharjah, at:


The UAE has vast power supply demand which is predominantly serviced by gas power stations.

Waste-to-power is under some consideration with high waste-per-person rates giving this scope for exploration.

Sharjah is building a waste-to-energy plant. When finished, it will be the largest gasification waste-to-energy plant in the world. The project received UK Export Finance (UKEF) funding.

There are a number of power projects across the UAE – some of them mega projects – including:

  • the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, with a total planned capacity of 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030 at a total investment of AED 50 billion. See the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) site at:

  • building of seven water development projects to be completed in 2018, worth a total of US $86 million (AED 315 million) in Ajman. See the UAE Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) site at:

  • increasing the capacity of the Ghalilah plant from 15 million to 45 million gallons per day and construction of a desalination plant in Al Zawra, Ajman, with a total capacity of 30 million gallons per day. See the UAE Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) site at:

Contact Trade and Investment adviser: for more information on energy opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Environment and water

The UAE is looking for innovative economic solutions in this sector.

Sustainable environment is a major agenda item in the UAE’s 2021 Vision. There are stringent targets for improving air quality, treatment of all waste generated and conservation of water.

The market for water and wastewater treatment equipment in the UAE is estimated to be £400 million and was expected to reach £725 million by 2020. Waste generation is expected to have increased from 6.57 million tonnes in 2010 to 8.36 million tonnes by the beginning of 2018.

Revenues in the waste management sector were expected to have grown from £95 million in 2013 to £365 million by 2017. Currently 80 to 90% of waste in the UAE goes to landfill and 22% of GCC waste is generated in the UAE.

Contact Trade and Investment Adviser: for more information on opportunities in the environment and water sectors.

[Source – DIT/]


Financial and professional services

Dubai has the largest and most sophisticated financial services industry in the region. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are growth markets in their own right and are hosts to companies from the UK’s financial services industry.

There are effectively two financial services markets in the UAE – onshore and offshore.

In Dubai there is the offshore free zone of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC): This is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA): on Anglo-Saxon lines and with access to English common law in the form of the DIFC Courts. It focuses on banking, capital markets, asset management and fund registration; insurance and reinsurance; Islamic finance and professional service providers.

The world outside the DFSA, regulated by federal authorities, is the second market. British companies are extremely active in both.

A new financial free zone for Abu Dhabi on Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is the Emirate’s fifth free zone. ADGM is a broad-based international financial centre for local, regional and international institutions in collaboration with other international financial centres, global institutions and regulators, developing and supporting member institutions with the regulatory framework, legal jurisdiction and attractive business environment they need for sustainable business growth. It concentrates on private banking, wealth management and asset management. The emergence of ADGM is a major part of the capital’s 2030 economic vision. See the ADGM site at: for further information.

Contact Financial Services Co-ordinator: for more information on financial and professional services opportunities. 

[Source – DIT/]



The UAE’s healthcare sector is developing due to:

  • steady population growth

  • high per-capita income

  • increased health awareness

  • rising prevalence in lifestyle diseases

The UK already holds a prominent position in the market with world class UK NHS brands such as Imperial College, Moorfields, Kings College and The Maudsley delivering high-quality clinical services.

The increase in new-build hospitals and medical centres offers opportunities for:

  • filling gaps in provision e.g. oncology, paediatrics, mental health, primary care, trauma, emergency services and long term rehabilitation

  • high-quality equipment supply

  • healthcare facilities management

  • infrastructure, construction

  • digital health solutions

  • delivering high-quality training and education programmes for medical staff

Contact Trade and Investment Adviser: for more information on healthcare opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Infrastructure and construction

The UAE’s rapid growth, urbanisation and young population are fuelling demand across the leisure, infrastructure, real estate and utilities sectors. Its infrastructure plans are huge, underpinned by the UAE’s Vision 2021. See:

The UAE is not only a market in its own right, but an important bridge to markets in the wider Middle East.

The main trends include:

  • high levels of investment on social infrastructure to service the growing population

  • investment in economic diversification

  • tourism and event driven construction

Major projects planned or underway over the next few years include:

Contact Trade and Investment Adviser: for more information on infrastructure and construction opportunities.

[Source – DIT/]


Rail sector

The UAE is the region’s most advanced market in terms of rail schemes. In order to reduce the dependency on emissions-producing vehicles, Dubai started building its Metro in 2005. In 2015 there were 49 stations operating over 75 km, with a further 26 stations over 96 km in production or proposed.

The metro system is one of the most advanced urban rail systems in the world and is a catalyst for tourism, financial and economic growth. Work is currently under way (2018) on Route 2020, a 15 km-long extension of the Dubai metro system that links Al Maktoum International Airport and the Dubai Expo 2020 site with the Red Line at Nakheel Harbour and Towers Station.

The Dubai Tram system is the first tramway project outside Europe to be powered by a ground-based electric supply, and runs for 14.6 km (9 miles) along Al Sufouh Road from Dubai Marina to the Palm Jumeirah and Al Sufouh area. Phase 1 opened in 2014 and work on the design of Phase 2 is planned to start later this year (2018).

Abu Dhabi also has set up its plans to develop its metro, covering 131 km and connecting major areas of the Emirate. Contracts were awarded in 2015, and Phase One of the network (60 km) was completed by 2017, with a further 70 km in later phases.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Railway, fast-tracked procurement of the Gulf’s most significant transport project with the first section of the US $11 billion federal rail network completed in 2013. Etihad Rail will link all the northern Emirates with Dubai and Abu Dhabi Railway. When complete, the 1,200 km network will extend across the United Arab Emirates from the border of Saudi Arabia to the border of Oman. The network will run from Ghweifat to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the northern Emirates with major connecting points in between, including Al Ain and Madinat Zayed.

Etihad Rail will have an extensive national network with freight terminals, distribution centres and depots located close to major transport hubs, warehouses, and storage facilities across the UAE, which will add to the UAE's competitive edge, create job opportunities and serve as a magnet for foreign investment.

The 537 km national railway will significantly reduce traffic on the heavily congested roads connecting the Emirates.

It will ultimately unite with a trans-GCC network that will connect all six member-states. The first phase of the UAE's rail network would see double track railway built from Ruwais in Abu Dhabi to Fujairah. Eventually, there will be about 900 km of track running from the coast to the Saudi border. The regional mega-project is estimated at around US $14 billion, with the first stage of construction completed in 2016.

[Source – UAE Government]


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