Neom could become the first ‘health tech’ capital of the world

20/07/20

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has catalyzed the digital transformation in the health care sector. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, NEOM, the Kingdom’s futuristic smart city and Vision’s centerpiece, has an unprecedented opportunity to become the first health technology (health tech) capital of the world, and a global hub for innovation and cooperation in health and wellness technology.
This year will be recalled in the history of health tech as the equivalent of a decade of digital transformation, such is the speed with which the sector is responding to demand at every level. The COVID-19 pandemic has given health tech companies the chance to show what they are able to do, and accelerated the uptake of digital health solutions in ways hitherto unseen. The technologies being developed, tested and rolled out today are helping not only in the present, but will shape the future of health care across the world for years.
Even before COVID-19, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’s young, digitally savvy population had already showed a readiness to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for their health care needs. According to a 2017 PwC report titled “What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define New Health,” two-thirds of Middle Eastern and North African consumers said they were willing to replace human clinicians with AI and robots, with the highest proportion, 66 percent, in Saudi Arabia.
The region already fosters a number of homegrown champions, such as Saudi-born Nala, the region’s fastest-growing health tech company and the world’s first AI platform to offer instant access to medical diagnoses in Arabic. With health care being one of the strategic pillars of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, Saudi Arabia has the opportunity to offer the world its first true health tech capital at NEOM.
From laboratories specializing in stem cell therapy to innovation centers studying the human genome project, NEOM is ushering in a new era of modern medicine, leading to countless effective treatments and therapies. From companies leading the way in remote monitoring and tele-health, to innovative AI-powered assessment apps and platforms, meanwhile, the world is witnessing an unprecedented upsurge of momentum in the health tech sector, which represents a unique opportunity for Saudi Arabia and NEOM’s model for the new future.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, as a key forum for coordination of policy and action within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals, has a strategic role to play in shaping Saudi Arabia’s path toward becoming a global health tech hub. Initiatives such as the recent “Beyond The Crisis: Technology to the Rescue” series demonstrate its role as the curator of the global conversation on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Yet it is at NEOM where the Kingdom possesses an extraordinary platform to showcase global innovations that blend health care, well-being and technology together in a way that pushes the boundaries of what is possible.
NEOM’s futuristic model, that includes the presence of major tech-driven companies, represents a vast opportunity to host a major health tech hub and attract not only innovative entrepreneurs from across the GCC but also from across the world. It also offers the opportunity to showcase and scale-up the increasing number of domestic champions such as Sihatech, the Riyadh-based health care tech start-up that offers a cloud-based Hospital Information System to support the digitization efforts of the National Digital Transformation Unit and the Saudi Ministry of Health. NEOM is the key to cementing Saudi Arabia’s position as a health tech hub and provides a magnet for the talent needed to foster it.
The proposed NEOM HealthTech Hub will see year-long initiatives built around partnerships and collaboration agreements with other research institutions such as the Center of Excellence for NEOM Research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. FII, an annual conference which has now become an institute for innovation, had a strong message at last year’s global summit: We are open for innovation.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Neom ‘is the land of the future’

Time: 05 February, 2020

Hamid Syed, Middle East vice president and general manager for UL and Ibraheem Alfuraih, NCA deputy governor for strategy and planning, sign an agreement. (Global Cybersecurity Forum)
  • The CEO said Neom will be the first city totally powered by renewable energy and supported by a fully protected digital system
  • Al-Nasr said that Neom is working closely with the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) to train thousands of workers for the tech and digital sector and its “state of the art security system”

RIYADH: Smart city technologies will ensure Neom is “the land of the future,” with the Saudi mega-city providing an exceptional quality of life for up to 1 million people by 2030, according to CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.
Speaking on Wednesday at a session on smart cities at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh, Al-Nasr said that work on Neom’s overall strategy, including the key tech and digital sector, is nearing completion.
The strategy is expected to be unveiled in March and will provide an “automated digitized Neom future,” he said.
Al-Nasr said the strategy is not an “evolution but a revolution of the regional plan.”
“Neom is the land of the future. I cannot think of a better timing for Neom than at this forum.
“We are targeting 1 million people, residents and workers, in Neom by 2030, and growing from none to a million in 10 years is not an easy task. It’s going to be the target; we are going to have thousands of digital nomads,” he said.
The CEO said Neom will be the first city totally powered by renewable energy and supported by a fully protected digital system.
“We are going to be the first place in the world that is fully digitized. We are going to be the first region in the world where we are going to be a 100 percent cashless facility. We are going to be the first place with a digital health backbone that connects everyone in the smart city and provides a 24-hour health service.
“We will have fully autonomous mobility, we will have only electric vehicles and public transport will be fully autonomous,” he said.
Al-Nasr said that Neom is working closely with the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) to train thousands of workers for the tech and digital sector and its “state of the art security system.”
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy joined speakers at the Riyadh forum on the final day to discuss the role of leadership in the future of cybersecurity.
On the sidelines of the forum, Hamid Syed, Middle East vice president and general manager for UL, a global safety science company, and Ibraheem Alfuraih, NCA deputy governor for strategy and planning, signed a joint agreement to work on a cybersecurity framework for the Kingdom.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Neom megacity will have world’s first ‘solar dome’ desalination plant

Time: 30 January, 2020 

(Photo/Supplied)
  • Facility will be completely sustainable, carbon neutral and greatly reduce environmental impact of water extraction
  • Construction is due to begin in the next month and is expected to be complete by end of 2020

TABUK: The Neom smart-city project will use cutting-edge solar technology to power a desalination plant that produces clean, low-cost, environmentally friendly fresh water.

The decision aims to enhance megacity’s position as a new global tourism destination, a center of innovation and environmental conservation, and as an accelerator of human progress.

Neom signed an agreement with UK business Solar Water Limited to build a desalination plant in the northwest of the Kingdom that uses the newly developed “solar dome” technology. It is hoped the first-of-its-kind, completely sustainable and carbon-neutral facility will shape the future of desalination in Neom, the Kingdom and throughout the world.

Work on the solar dome project will begin in February and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The technology it employs will significantly reduce the environmental impact of the desalination process by producing less saline solution, a byproduct that can harm natural ecosystems.

The pioneering and innovative approach from Solar Water Limited, which was developed at Cranfield University in the UK, represents the first widespread use of concentrated solar power technology in desalination, Neom said. Seawater is pumped into a hydrological solar dome made of glass and steel, where it is heated and evaporated to remove the salt. The process can continue at night thanks to the storage of solar energy generated throughout the day. The technology helps to prevent any damage to marine life as it does not dump saline solution created by the process back into the sea.

“Neom’s adoption of the experimental version of this program supports the sustainability goals set by the Ministry in the Kingdom, as shown in the National Water Strategy 2030, and is fully in line with the sustainable-development goals set by the United Nations,” said Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli.

Neom CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said that the megacity project has easy access to abundant amounts of seawater and completely renewable energy resources, which puts it in the ideal position to produce low-cost and sustainable fresh water using solar-powered desalination.

He added that the adoption of this type of technology reflects Neom’s commitment to supporting innovation, protecting the environment and preserving its purity to provide a comfortable and exceptional life. It also raises the possibility of using the technology in other parts of Saudi Arabia in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

David Reavley, the CEO of Solar Water Ltd, said: “Currently, thousands of desalination plants around the world rely heavily on burning fossil fuels for water extraction, and we have the technology to desalinate water in a way that is completely sustainable and 100 percent carbon neutral.

“We are happy to partner with Neom, which has a strong vision of what the new future looks like in harmony and integration with nature.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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NEOM second phase to begin this year, says CEO

Time: July 25, 2019  

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CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr gives an address at NEOM. (Photo Supplied)
  • Nadhmi Al-Nasr welcomes diplomats for inaugural visit to the city
  • Phase 2 strategy to be completed by end of 2019; targets 1 million population by 2030

RIYADH: Day by day, NEOM is becoming a reality as more facilities are built at the project’s first urban area, NEOM Bay. It is just the start, and work will continue endlessly, CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said in his address to a large diplomatic gathering on their first visit to the site, located in the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia.

With cool weather, clean beaches and historical sites, NEOM is set to be a beautiful and sustainable destination.

Speaking to over 160 diplomats who attended NEOM’s first ever beach sports events, Al-Nasr stated that the first phase of NEOM’s construction is now complete, and the world’s most ambitious project is set to announce its second phase strategy by the end of 2019.

The journey of NEOM started in October 2017 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduced the project to the world. The first phase strategy, a plan covering the economic concept, the funding, and the road map of the project, was developed, while the second phase will include detailed plans for NEOM’s 16 economic sectors and regions.

“We started Phase 2’s strategy, and we will finish that by end of 2019, which means by the end of the year we will share with the world what NEOM is going to be,” Al-Nasr added while speaking in  Gayal, a coastal site close to Sharma, where NEOM’s first commercial airport is located.

NEOM Bay will host a second airport, offices, and residential units for construction workers assigned to the rest of the development. One of its business objectives is to be home to new technologies that will influence the new wave of industrialization. To spur the technological advancement within NEOM, Al-Nasr said that the project “will be funding technology development, and we will be partnering with leading technology partners in the world.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Over 70 ambassadors visit NEOM for the first time.

Phase 2 strategy to be completed by end of 2019; targets 1 million population by 2030.

As one of its 16 economic sectors, the tourism sector plans to be a major destination as it targets 5 million visitors by 2030, Al-Nasr told the diplomats. For this purpose, NEOM is developing different island and mountain resorts. Attracting such a huge number of visitors is a challenge, and the CEO added: “Some are saying that this is a long shot, but our business is to only address long shots.”

NEOM is also targeting 1 million citizens by the year 2030 “or little bit beyond,” he said.

NEOM is strategically situated in a location accessible by 70 percent of global population within 8 hours. Al-Nasr highlighted that Rome is reachable by air in around 3 hours, while London is 5 hours away.

In his address, he invited the diplomats to be part of NEOM. “We want you to think that one day you could be living in NEOM, working and retiring in NEOM, and of course, we don’t mind you investing in NEOM.”

Australian Ambassador Ridwaan Jawdat told Arab News: “I was very impressed by the incredible natural beauty of the NEOM site — the beaches, water and coral reefs were stunning. I enjoyed touring the locations and meeting the staff. It is an extraordinarily ambitious project, and I was very happy to be given some insights on the vision and the planning.”

The tour concluded with a visit to the International Beach Soccer Tournament hosted by NEOM.

Dutch Ambassador Joost Reintjes asked about the King Salman Bridge, which Al-Nasr explained would “not only connect Saudi Arabia with Egypt, but with Asia and Africa.”

He concluded: “We started NEOM but we aren’t going to finish. There is no end to NEOM.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi civil aviation announces the opening of NEOM Bay airport

Time: June 26, 2019  

Neom airport announced its first flight is next week with the official code as NUM. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation announced on Tuesday the opening of Neom Bay Airport in the northern region of Sharma.
The authority said that the airport has been licensed and is ready to receive commercial flights starting next week, after the first phase of development work was completed and was registered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier with the code “NUM.”
At present, Neom Bay Airport will conduct regular flights to investors and employees of the Neom project.

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Saudi Arabia gives green light for development of NEOM Bay

Time: January 16, 2019     

The Founding Board gave instructions to complete preparations and start construction work in the first quarter of 2019. (Supplied)

NEOM Founding Board, chaired by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Defense, and Chairman of Board of Directors of Public Fund Investment, approved the strategic concept of the masterplan for NEOM Bay, the first urban area to be developed in NEOM.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Founding Board gave instructions to complete preparations and start construction work in the first quarter of 2019.

It is expected that a number of key facilities will be completed by the end of this year including the current airport at Sharma, which will be upgraded to become a commercial airport operating regular flights between Riyadh and NEOM. The work on the first phase of NEOM Bay will be completed in 2020.

“The year 2019 will be a milestone in NEOM’s journey. We are now preparing for the development of NEOM Bay area, which will provide a new concept of urban living that will enable it to become a platform for attracting the world’s top minds for creating advanced economic sectors”, Nadhmi al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM said.

“The strategy of developing NEOM Bay will rely on four key pillars that will be ingrained in the entire project development, with sustainability at the heart of aspect of the project. The first is to provide a living experience and an ideal quality of life for families; the second is to create a high-end lifestyle and a luxurious tourist destination; the third and fourth pillars are to support both innovation and creative centers in order to achieve NEOM’s economic goals,” al-Nasr said.

Innovation centers will support the knowledge-based economy in various sectors, such as media and health and well-being, whereas creative centers will support art in all its forms to create a special identity for NEOM.

Nadhmi al-Nasr, chief executive officer of NEOM, thanking the flight captain of the Saudi Arabian Airlines. (SPA)

NEOM Bay

NEOM Bay will be NEOM’s first window to the world, blessed with pristine white beaches and a temperate climate. The project has financial support of over $500 billion from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia providing an attractive investment opportunity for local and international investors.

In line with NEOM’s goals to find solutions to the key challenges facing human society, NEOM Bay will provide an ideal environment that focuses on improving health and well-being for its residents, offering next-generation technologies in mobility and creating an intelligent urban ecosystem with advanced infrastructure.

Most importantly, NEOM Bay is designed to be an eco-friendly project. For example, energy will be generated from renewable sources. Water desalination will be made without the disposal of any harmful materials or residues to the marine environment. Carbon emissions will be reduced to the minimum.

The unique environmental characteristics of the region will be preserved, and the unique ecosystem will be protected and improved by applying best international practices to preserve the beauty of the region, the unique marine and terrestrial life and heritage areas that will be protected for future generations.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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NEOM airport welcomes its first Saudi Arabian Airlines flight

Time: January 11, 2019

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NEOM airport welcomed its first Saudi Arabian Airlines flight Thursday with 130 people on board. (SPA)
  • NEOM, a $500 billion megacity, is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s strategic vision to diversify its economy
  • The project’s vision is to make it the best place in the world for living and working

JEDDAH: NEOM airport welcomed its first Saudi Arabian Airlines flight Thursday with 130 passengers on board, the Saudi Press Agency reported. NEOM, a $500 billion megacity in the Kingdom’s northwest, is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s vision to diversify its economy.
Passengers traveled to NEOM on two Airbus A320 planes to familiarize themselves with the area as they are working on the project.
NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said: “We wanted our employees to experience the project which they have been working on to make a success since its inception last year.
There is a big difference between knowing the details of the project in theory and visiting it practically, exploring its treasures, beauty, and heritage.”
He thanked Saudi Arabian Airlines for facilitating the trip, and said  he looked forward to further cooperation with them and with other transport companies to serve NEOM residents and visitors in the future.

Sustainable solution
NEOM, backed by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, will operate as an independent economic zone that is powered solely by renewable energy sources and has its own laws and regulations.
Saleh Al-Jasser, director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, said: “We are happy to present this unique opportunity to NEOM employees to visit the location and explore its cultural characteristics and rich environment.
“We strongly believe in this ambitious project and hope that this flight serves as the start of a long-term and prosperous partnership with NEOM and its great opportunities that will support Saudi Vision 2030.”
He added that NEOM would write a new story for the future and economy of the region.
NEOM Bay was chosen for Thursday’s meeting and will be the first area developed in the project.
The entire project encompasses 26,500 sq. km of land, ranging from scenic coastline to desert to snow-capped mountains.
There is a plan to establish a network of airports in NEOM that will include an international airport with world-class standards.
Project planners have identified 16 economic sectors to create a sustainable economy which are expected to eventually generate an estimated annual income of $100 billion.

This article was first published in Arab News

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NEOM to develop 16 economic sectors with a future target of generating $100 billion of income per annum

Time: November 01, 2018        

Nadhmi Al-Nasr, Chief Executive Officer of NEOM

NEOM, the world’s most ambitious project to be built in the Northwestern part of Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea coast, entered the first phase of actual development after preparation works to develop the infrastructure of the first residential area accelerated.

NEOM Bay–a luxurious touristic destination–will be the first urban area to embrace the future population in NEOM – that is planned to be one of the most attractive destinations worldwide for investments and sustainable economic development.

Work on the first airport in NEOM is expected to be completed before the end of 2018 with bi-weekly flights operating to and from NEOM scheduled at the start of 2019. This comes as part of a general plan to establish a network of airports in NEOM that will include an international airport with world-class standards.

Additionally, NEOM is witnessing progress in a number of key areas. One of the major key developments at NEOM since its inception is the identification of 16 economic sectors to create a sustainable economy that will not only generate job opportunities but will also unlock human innovation and creativity at all levels.

As NEOM reaches an advanced stage of development, these sectors are targeted to generate an estimated annual income of $100 billion. A large part of this income will be in the form of redirecting the outflow of investments and spending back into Saudi Arabia. This in return will have a significant positive impact on the Kingdom’s GDP.

The identified economic sectors aim not only at stimulating growth and economic diversification but more importantly at finding innovative and sustainable solutions for challenges facing the future of human civilization.

The 16 sectors are the future of energy, future of water, future of mobility, future of biotech, future of food, future of manufacturing, future of media, future of entertainment, culture and fashion, future of technology and digital, future of tourism, future of sport, future of design and construction, future of services, future of health and well-being, future of education, and finally the future of livability as the foundation of all sectors.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Defense, announced on October 24th last year in Riyadh during the first edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) the launch of NEOM project on more than 26,000 km2 of land in the Northwestern part of Saudi Arabia.

Nadhmi Al-Nasr, Chief Executive Officer of NEOM, said that preparations are ongoing and progressing significantly to start the construction work at NEOM Bay. He noted that the pace of project development is moving “greater than expected.”

The CEO also stated in a public address during the FII that NEOM focuses on human and technological advancement to create a unique sustainable environment for humanity, all within the objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Moreover, Al-Nasr, in his speech during FII this year which marked NEOM’s first anniversary, added: “We are working hard to ensure that the newly created towns and cities in NEOM will create new ways of living, economy, trade, innovation that at the end will make NEOM an ideal environment for all of its future residents.”

Moving to the challenges facing the project, the CEO added: “We are aware of the challenges we face in developing a mega project such as NEOM as it will be the largest international special zone in the world in terms of size and scale of investments. However, our capabilities backed with strong political, financial and logistical support will enable us to achieve what we plan for, especially that we are dealing with a greenfield project in an untouched land.”

One of the key factors for ensuring the success of NEOM is the political and financial backing of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the project. The project is backed with more than $500 billion that will be provided by the Saudi Arabian government, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, as well as local and international investors.

About NEOM

NEOM is a new destination being created in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia. NEOM was announced to the public on October 24, 2017, by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Defense and Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF). NEOM aims to be the future of livability as its foundation and is unprecedented in scope and unconstrained by history.

NEOM will be built with principles of livability and innovation at its core. Industry will focus on the following future key pillars: energy and water, mobility, biotech, food, advanced manufacturing, media, entertainment, technological and digital sciences, tourism and sports. Technology, such as an automated civil service, will underpin daily life and create new opportunities for people living and working in NEOM.

Based along the Red Sea, at the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa and along one of the world’s busiest economic arteries, NEOM is strategically placed at the crossroads of the world. It encompasses 26,500 km2 of land, ranging from scenic coastline to desert to snow-capped mountains. NEOM is just an 8-hour flight from 70% of the globe’s population.

NEOM forms part of the Saudi Giga-Projects Investment Pool for the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. The Giga-projects are integrated economic ecosystems that will support the economic transformation of the Kingdom and act as a catalyst for investment across various sectors, and in addition to NEOM include The Red Sea Project, and Qiddiya.

This article was first published in AlRiyadh Daily

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First phase of NEOM construction underway

Time: November 01, 2018        

NEOM is a planned 10,230-square-mile transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • NEOM to develop 16 economic sectors, and the first airport will be operational soon
  • Work on NEOM Bay is rapidly progressing with future target of $100 billion of income per annum

 

LONDON: NEOM, the giga project to be built on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, has entered the first phase of development with preparation works to develop the infrastructure of the first residential area.

NEOM, a project of unprecedented scale, was first announced at last year’s FII. It is being developed with the principles of livability and innovation at its core. It encompasses 26,500 square kilometers of land, ranging from scenic coastline to desert to snow-capped mountains. It forms part of the Saudi Giga-Projects Investment Pool for the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia which also includes the Red Sea Project and Qiddiya.

Work on the first airport in the development is expected to be completed before the end of 2018 with the first bi-weekly flights operating at the start of 2019, NEOM said in a statement.

It is part of a general plan to establish a network of airports in NEOM that will include an international airport with world-class standards.

NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said: “We are working hard to ensure that the newly created towns and cities in NEOM will create new ways of living, economy, trade, innovation that at the end will make NEOM an ideal environment for all of its future residents.”

The project planners have also identified 16 economic sectors to create a sustainable economy which are expected to eventually generate an estimated annual income of $100 billion.

A large part of this income will be in the form of redirecting the outflow of investments and spending back into Saudi Arabia. This in return will have a significant positive impact on the Kingdom’s GDP, NEOM said in a statement.

The 16 sectors focus on; the future of energy, water, mobility, biotech, food, manufacturing, media, entertainment, culture and fashion, technology and digital, tourism, sport, design and construction, services, health and well-being, education, and livability.

This article was first published in Arab News

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