Businesses will not only have direct access to the broad Saudi Arabian market, but they will also be able to apply for financial support for appropriate development projects. NEOM economic zone will provide the infrastructure and supportive legal environment which, combined with a sophisticated labor force, will facilitate business and industry to work creatively in a competitive environment. To note, close to 10% of world trade passes through the Red Sea.
International trade laws will be complementary with the aim of making trade and commerce as seamless as possible. It will be a favorable and efficient business environment and innovation will be supported and stimulated. Regulations will be preferential. All kinds of activity such as research, connectivity, communications, construction, transport, logistics and more will be next generation. The world's most promising technologies will be given room to run.
Saudi Arabia hopes that NEOM will result in major new industries being nurtured and developed in the zone, and even invented, thereby reducing the kingdom's imports and diversifying its economy. The highest echelons of the government are fully aware that the world may move away from its dependence on oil in decades to come. The project will provide essential diversification and will surely mark Saudi Arabia on the world map as a vibrant and ambitious nation.
Naturally, sustainable energy will be a showcase industry. Massive solar grids and wind turbines will provide all the power for NEOM.
ENERGY AND WATER
"All this being sufficient to supply all of NEOM and beyond with low-cost regenerative energy. The beams, bridges and archways of this grand destination will be immaculate, untainted by pollution. Buildings will remain pristine and the air fresh and clear. And NEOM scientists will pioneer the future of energy production, use and storage – for water, gas, oil, solar, wind, algae… and whole new kinds of energy the world has yet to hear of."
Official NEOM Site
All kinds of green transport vehicles, medicines, biotech, electronics, sensors, robots, devices and more could conceivably be developed and manufactured. Big data, AI and other technologies like quantum computing will likely be explored and implemented.
Vertical farming, solar greenhouses, arid & seawater farming, hydroponic growing, biome domes, de-salination and other innovative food-related technologies to help grow produce in a desert environment will also be candidates for development. Saudi Arabia has vast tracts of land but the landscape is arid. New technology is being seen as having the potential to make the soil more arable, with smart farms more automated and efficient.
Further information about how data, technology and analysis can combine to drive prosperity and sustainability can be seen on the Smart Cities page.
"As the hottest place on Earth, the nation cannot rely on imported foods and is seeking to engineer renewable-powered greenhouses to feed its people and neighboring nations..."
Saudi Arabia Is Set to Become a Bigger Commodities Player
To use a metaphor, Neom Zone with its unique future status could be envisaged as being like China's Pearl River delta but with Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status.
"Starting from scratch means a chance to innovate the very systems underpinning those innovations of R&D, supply, transport, infrastructure. And a chance to test out inventions like personalized, fully automated, point-to-point transfers, passenger drones, self-learning traffic systems in a live destination setting and refine them to perfection."
TECHNOLOGICAL AND DIGITAL SCIENCES
"NEOM will innovate on an open source platform, inviting the world's top data scientists to analyse data and innovate. Inventors will enjoy a world-first opportunity – to use the destination itself as a test ground for urban innovations."
Official NEOM Site
Further, by creating globally significant buildings, theme parks and tourism infrastructure on the Red Sea & Gulf of Aqaba, and destinations in the mountains and deserts, the Kingdom hopes to revitalize a new, local travel market. Beautiful sandy beaches and historic monuments contribute to the range of attractions.
Saudi Arabia is already experienced in commissioning cutting edge buildings. The Kingdom today has the vision, the resolve – and the budget.
For example, a striking building by award-winning Zaha Hadid Architects gives a glimpse into the kind of styles we can expect to see in NEOM. King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Riyadh is a strikingly original honeycomb-like network of five connected modular buildings. It is an inspirational mixture of lattice shapes and crystalline forms.
If successful, technological advances and innovation will combine with a strategy to lure the world's best creators, thinkers and innovators to NEOM and create a dynamic melting pot of synergy and imagination. It will be 100% powered by solar and wind power (with wind speed averaging 10.3m/sec).
It will also be the most modern metropolis in the world with ground-breaking information, digital, robotic, automation, 3D visualization and other smart technologies deployed at every opportunity – including during the construction process.
Neom's Nine Key Economic Sectors that provide a blueprint for innovation are wide in scope. They encompass some of the themes that will surely define the exciting technological trajectory of the next few decades.
"The future of food is a key pillar for #NEOM. It will include an international innovation center for food technology."
"New materials & methods open new possibilities in advanced manufacturing. #NEOM will pioneer these opportunities."
"The world will look to #NEOM for next-generation gene therapy, genomics & bioengineering."
Twitter 2, 6, and 11 Nov 2017
Dubai has already set an admirable benchmark in the region for invention and technological development. It has a $300 million accelerator program called the Future Foundation which is successfully attracting innovative global companies.
Backed by Dubai's modern Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the program has a particular emphasis on blockchain and is already leading the world by incorporating it to a significant degree into government services. Dubai is at the forefront of the global quest for imaginative talent, and Saudi Arabia will have to strive with great energy to suceed in this vital competition.
"Blockchain isn't Dubai's only front in what its Future Foundation CEO last year called 'an economic war' to lead innovation in the global economy. For instance, the Emirate recently named a minister of artificial intelligence."
World capital of blockchain is now rising in the Middle East
Saudi Arabia's plan to grow and diversify its economy looks set to mirror The Emirate's successful and significant strategy which began in 2007. The CEO of Mubadala (Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund) Khaldoon Al Mubarak told CNBC that the Middle East had always been unstable but that the United Arab Emirates would strive to be a model of stability.
Mubadala is a large investor (alongside Saudi Arabia) in Softbank's Vision Fund which in turn will be a big investor in NEOM as described briefly on the Investors page.
"Mubadala… has approximately $125 billion assets under management. With investments across sectors including technology, aerospace and chemicals, it has been a key player in the Emirate's move away from oil dependence."
"Mubadala estimates 48 percent of Abu Dhabi's total gross domestic product is now non-oil and gas related…"
Middle East instability won't deter investment in Abu Dhabi's diversification, says wealth fund chief
Comprehensive infrastructure will be provided to serve the requirements of film, TV, music and game producers. NEOM intends to become a major global media hub in years to come.
This unprecedented plan will contribute towards building a labor force of world-leading skill. This will be a land of opportunity and wealth creation. From day one innovation will be at the forefront.
To build a competitive post-oil economy, Saudi Arabia has little choice other than to implement best practice economic strategies across the board. Or surpass them. This of course necessarily includes maximizing the potential contribution of women in business and society. Constraints need to be unleashed in the drive for productivity and innovation. The best candidate for a job should always be selected – whether man or woman.
"The move [granting women the right to drive across the entire nation] is expected to spur growth and give women a much bigger role in the economy. Only 22% of women are active in the workforce. Vision 2030 aims to lift that to 30%."
"The government has set itself the target of generating 65% of GDP from the private sector, and getting more women into work is key."
6 ways life in Saudi Arabia will change in 2018
Even the construction process is projected to be innovative. Dean Banks, the MD of international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty, said he believes that construction methodology is undergoing fundamental change in a 2017 CNBC interview (speaking in general industry terms, not about NEOM.)
Technologies such as building information modelling and remote site management are driving the transformation, and the impact may extend for decades to encompass a building's operation and maintenance as well.
"In the future we think that robotics will play a big part. We see drones making decisions, we think information modelling will be in place…"
As tech drives change in the construction industry, here's what the future holds
An incisive TechCrunch article suggests there can be an optimistic outlook for NEOM provided the government establishes fair and best practice regulations and "if the city itself acts like a startup." The paradigm of the smart city blueprint is about to be extended.
Saudi Arabia is already offering generous incentives to coax entrepreneurs to the Kingdom as well as making regulations more friendly. The King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) can be seen as an important pre-cursor to Neom Zone.
"Saudi Arabia has introduced trading licenses that will allow foreign entrepreneurs to set up a business in the Kingdom for the first time."
"The initiative… will enable select businesses to establish themselves in the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). The KAEC is the world's first publicly listed city and was established by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2005."
Saudi Arabia offers licenses for foreign entrepreneurs to set up shop for the first time
The Kingdom is encouraging international investment on many fronts. For example, Sir Richard Branson will invest in a major new luxury tourism resort destination spanning 50 islands around the cities of Umlaj and Al-Wajh called simply "The Red Sea". Rigorous and sustainable environmental principles will be observed. Announced prior to NEOM, it will be a first-class destination for wellness and entertainment.
"Situated just a few kilometers from one of the most diverse Saudi nature reserves and captivating dormant volcanoes in Harrat Al-Rahat, the resort promises to be a blissful coastal island retreat set against a backdrop of the ancient ruins at Mada'in Saleh, renowned for its beauty and historical significance."
"The project's nature reserve is inhabited by rare wildlife including leopards, wolves, wildcats and falcons. Also on offer will be parachuting, trekking and rock climbing."
Saudi crown prince launches mega Red Sea tourism project
The massive Red Sea project spanning 34,000 sq km (13,100 sq mi) is scheduled for completion in 2022. A fine two minute video can be watched on Twitter (#TheRedSeaProject).
Saudi Arabia already has the experience and infrastructure to welcome millions of tourists – since millions of pilgrims currently arrive each year to visit Mecca. The Kingdom is seeking to boost regular tourism as an important part of its multi-faceted plans for a prosperous future.
In a CNN video Prince Sultan bin Salman (Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage) acknowledged that many Gulf countries already had advanced tourism industries in place and that the Kingdom was "late" in the game. He wants to quickly build the industry. A new fluid visa system planned for implementation in 2018 will help.
He added that he wants to encourage people to come and experience "the grandness of this country". The majesty of its natural and historic attractions should not be kept secret. "This is the biggest hidden thing that the world needs to learn about," he said.
There is growing competition for the tourist dollar in the Gulf. For example, CNN reports that the UAE has built the world's longest zip line at Jebel Jais mountain in Ras Al Khaimah. Thrill seekers are able to "fly" down the spectacular descent at speeds up to 150 kph (93 mph). The thrilling wire spans about 2.8 km (1.7 mi). Saudi Arabia will need to likewise grasp opportunities to create adventure tourism destinations.
The Investors page contains a few examples of early investment themes that are beginning to happen in NEOM.
The scale is huge. To gain a perspective, with a projected area of 26,500 sq km, Neom Zone is around 88% the size of Belgium (30,278 sq km) and about 128% the size of Israel (20,770 sq km). A map is provided on the Plan page.