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ASU Thunderbird Global Innovation Center launches in Dubai

New satellite office expands ASU's presence in the Middle East

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and president of the Dubai International Financial Center standing outside of the Thunderbird Innovation Center in Dubai
May 26, 2021

ASU's Thunderbird School of Global Management has opened a new satellite center of excellence in Dubai called the Thunderbird Global Innovation Center in partnership with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the global finance and leading fintech hub with over 300 fintech and innovation companies in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.

The new Thunderbird Global Innovation Center is located within the DIFC Innovation Hub on the first floor of Gate Avenue at DIFC, in the heart of Dubai’s flourishing international business district. Known as a leading world-class business and innovation destination, Gate Avenue at DIFC provides the most powerful innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region. 

Thunderbird Global Innovation Center will capitalize on DIFC’s unmatched location and network to catalyze and accelerate startups and existing firms while providing world-class international business, leadership and management training, including delivery of graduate degree programs. Thunderbird Executive Education will deliver elite hybrid learning programs (both in person and remote) for organizations and individuals. Innovators and entrepreneurs will have opportunities to design, test and refine their ideas working alongside top educators, business leaders, financial experts and thousands of other trailblazers from DIFC’s vast and diverse ecosystem. Additionally, having a presence in this highly sought-after location will bolster regional recruiting and serve as a connection point for members of Thunderbird and ASU’s global alumni networks.

“Our new home in Dubai’s financial nerve center will allow Thunderbird and ASU to do what we do best — spark innovation and build collaborative knowledge networks across sectors and disciplines — in one of the business world’s key locations," said Thunderbird’s Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram. "With the expertise of our partners at DIFC, Thunderbird will use this perfect location as a launchpad to drive regional transformation and export cutting-edge management mastery around planet Earth. We’re expanding our worldwide network of Thunderbird Centers of Excellence in major commercial hubs like Dubai, and this beautiful space within Gate Avenue at DIFC will leverage the latest technology to link up with our offices in other cities as well as our new state-of-the-art Thunderbird Global Headquarters in Phoenix, opening this fall as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations. Being here now means our school and university will play an instrumental role in taking business innovations in Dubai to new heights as the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates.” 

Thunderbird’s launch event was the occasion of a special visit from the deputy ruler of Dubai. His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also president of the Dubai International Financial Center, officially inaugurated the DIFC Innovation Hub located in the Gate Avenue complex. The luxurious facility is part of the new Dubai Future District announced in January 2020 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. 

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed said, “The establishment of the DIFC Innovation Hub is an integral part of the strategic roadmap for realizing His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for innovation-driven growth in Dubai. The new facility is a key initiative aimed at generating new economic value by fostering the development of innovation, enterprise and talent across sectors, especially in future-oriented industries. This initiative supports Dubai’s aspiration to become a leading global player in shaping the future of vital sectors and creating a thriving international innovation hub in Dubai.

“The DIFC Innovation Hub is also a testament to Dubai’s emphasis on creating strong partnerships with players across the financial services value chain, ranging from large global corporations to promising small and medium enterprises and startups. Dubai seeks to constantly enhance its hard and soft infrastructure for innovators, investors and entrepreneurs from across industries to transform ideas into ventures that create enduring value. Amidst the unprecedented changes that the world is currently seeing, Dubai’s leadership continues to place a high priority on creating new models for growth and development, discovering solutions for turning crises into opportunities and advancing the horizons of technology to help usher in a bright new post-pandemic world." 

Other DIFC Innovation Hub tenants range from early to growth-stage startups such as YAP, Beehive, Tabby, Xpence, Stake, Rain and Bayzat, as well as other established tech companies such as Ebury, Huawei and Amazon.

Thunderbird Global Innovation Center will be getting a lot of new neighbors in the near future. During the deputy ruler’s visit, he approved the expansion of the DIFC Innovation Hub, which will increase its size fourfold to over 315,000 square feet. Over the next two years, the expansion will include the development of an additional tower linked to the existing DIFC Innovation Hub. Accommodating up to 1,000 businesses, the building will have fitted offices, co-working spaces, light food and beverage outlets in the concourse and fine dining outlets at the rooftop level. His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum posted a video of his DIFC Innovation Hub tour on his Twitter feed, which includes some footage of Thunderbird Global Innovation Center as well as a scale model of the planned expansion to the greater DIFC Innovation Hub complex. 

Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, said, “Thunderbird’s decision to locate its Global Innovation Center in DIFC is a testament to the strength of our reputation as a global business hub. It will enable the school to access our world-class infrastructure and innovation offerings as well as reach the fast-growing economies of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. We are excited to be welcoming a first-of-its-kind Thunderbird Global Innovation Center to the DIFC Innovation Hub and look forward to working with the team to support the next generation of business leaders.”

Top photo: Thunderbird Dean Sanjeev Khagram (center in blue suit) welcomes His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and president of the Dubai International Financial Center, at the launch of the Thunderbird Innovation Center in Dubai. Photo courtesy ASU Thunderbird

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