Scale Your Business to Emerging Markets with the DIFC Innovation Licence Offer

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The DIFC Innovation Licence is subsidised for a period of 2 to 5 years at a rate of USD 1,500 per annum and gives you access to co-working space and discounted visas. DIFC invites innovative companies from any sector to apply for the Innovation Licence and scale up from Dubai! Apply today.

Located in the heart of Dubai, DIFC is the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region’s leading financial hub. It is home to leading growth companies and empowers investors and innovators alike. DIFC offers outstanding opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs, including access to the Dh1bn Future District Fund, with the mandate to increase start-up funding and attract venture capital funds to Dubai. Innovators from all sectors can access the DIFC Innovation Licence which offers subsidised commercial licensing options and co-working space.

The Centre is also home to the DIFC Innovation Hub, the largest start-up ecosystem in the region. The hub is an integral part of the leadership’s strategy for economic growth: building a thriving ecosystem of stakeholders, from start-ups and venture builders to financial institutions and corporate innovation labs.

What is the DIFC Innovation Licence?

The DIFC Innovation Licence serves as a launch pad for relevant and cutting-edge technology firms across all sectors; enabling you to tap into tech innovations across the MEASA region.

It is a Commercial Licence with a subsidised fee structure open to all technology and innovation firms, enabling growth at any stage. The sector-agnostic ecosystem of the DIFC Innovation Hub supports over 800 tech start-ups and businesses expanding across the MEASA region.

By bringing diverse stakeholders together through co-working spaces and regular events, including the Dubai FinTech Summit, Blockchain Week, Talent Week, and the AI Festival, DIFC provides an ideal environment for knowledge-sharing, inspiration, and collaboration.

Why should you apply for the DIFC Innovation Licence?

This licence caters to firms interested in developing or testing new, novel, or innovative products. DIFC has a close to 20-year track record of facilitating trade and investment flows across the MEASA region. The benefits for companies include:

  • Subsidised Licence by 90% at USD 1,500 per annum
  • Access to the Global Innovation Hub
  • 100% foreign ownership
  • Robust regulatory framework
  • Zero currency restrictions
  • No restriction on capital repatriation
  • Access to a thriving start-up ecosystem
  • Four subsidised visas under 1 licence

Companies will also get additional support from the DIFC team to help you establish and operate your business seamlessly.

Leverage the extensive innovation ecosystem in Dubai to scale up!

Dubai is a leading talent hub, business gateway, growth platform, and lifestyle destination in the MEASA region. Through the DIFC Innovation Hub, you can access:

  • Professional and academic training
  • Accelerator programmes
  • Engagement with mentors from the region’s largest financial ecosystem
  • Community events
  • Operating and regulatory licences
  • Funding opportunities
  • Leading venture studios

Eligibility criteria for the DIFC Innovation Licence

Your business must meet the following requirements:

  • Non-financial: The entity cannot conduct any financial services, such as financial advisory, payment services or crypto/NFT exchanging.
  • Tech-related: The entity must provide a type of technology, like software solutions, AI, blockchain, and more.
  • General trading: The entity cannot generate any trading/selling of physical products (such as import/export of physical products).
  • Physical presence: The entity must have a physical presence within DIFC. The minimum requirement is to obtain a flexible desk in co-working spaces.

Some of the applicable business activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Software house
  • Network consultancies
  • Technology Research & Development (R&D)
  • Public networking services
  • Information technology consultants
  • Web design
  • Internet consultancy
  • Cyber security consultancy
  • IT infrastructure
  • Data classification & analysis
  • Portals
  • Education & training computer software
  • Computer consultancies
  • Education technologies R&D
  • Internet content provider
  • Electronic chips programming

The application process for the DIFC Innovation Licence

If selected, DIFC will support you in completing the application process, which is split into two stages:

  • Stage 1: Obtain the In-Principle Approval from the Registration Review Committee (takes around 5-7 working days).
  • Stage 2: Setup of the legal entity in the DIFC. This process can take up to a day to a few days to complete.

Finally, you will submit your application for the Commercial Licence: this is dependent on how fast you can finish the process (Articles of Association, obtaining a lease, paying the fees, etc.).

DIFC builds on a strong track record

Tarabut was the first firm to be licensed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) to provide account information services (AIS) and payment initiation services (PIS) activities.

Abdulla Almoayed, Founder and CEO of Tarabut said, “In 2021, our establishment in the dynamic DIFC was driven by its innovative ecosystem and forward-thinking regulatory environment. It was an honour for us to be granted the first licence for AIS and PIS in DIFC by the DFSA, which we take with great responsibility. There is a huge potential for Open Banking across the UAE and the region, and the commitment from regulators and authorities helps companies like ours take those initial steps. We are grateful to the DFSA for granting us this regulatory licence, and we look forward to working in close collaboration with DIFC to drive innovation in financial services for many years to come.”

Tabby, founded in 2019, is another winner of the DIFC Challenge. It builds a payment and shopping app that is active in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. It was valued at USD 1.5 billion in its last round of funding.

Hosam Arab, CEO and co-founder, Tabby said, “DIFC has been an incredible base to build our company, giving us the right infrastructure to expand to neighboring GCC countries and serve millions of customers with flexible payments in UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.”

Interested in scaling up your business from the biggest financial hub in the MEASA region?

Explore all the offer details and send in your application today.




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