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US robotics specialist Gecko to set up shop in UAE
Gecko's TOKA 3 HotBot can inspect pipes at temperatures of up to 121C
  • Gecko makes wall-climbing robots that inspect oil and gas facilities
  • It is latest tech firm to sign up to UAE’s NextGen FDI initiative
  • Robotics company plans to build a plant in Abu Dhabi

Gecko Robotics, a US firm that makes wall-climbing robots to inspect oil, gas and power infrastructure, is setting up an international HQ in the UAE.

The move, announced today, is part of the UAE Ministry of Economy’s NextGen FDI programme, which aims to attract 300 digital companies over the next year.

“Our industrial base is seeking to integrate the tools of the fourth industrial revolution to improve efficiencies and boost productivity, and Gecko Robotics will be a key partner on that journey,” Thani Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, said.

“The decision by the CEO of Gecko Robotics to build an international base in the UAE is testament to our business-friendly culture and the support on offer from our spectrum of stakeholders as part of the NextGen FDI initiative.

“We are making the UAE one of the easiest places on the planet to enter the market, find the right workforce and scale rapidly.”

Jake Loosararian, CEO and co-founder of Gecko Robotics, said: “We are big believers in the UAE and its transformation into a globally competitive economic and innovation hub.

“We can take advantage of the UAE’s comprehensive economic partnership agreements to export to the rest of the world from here, and we can support energy businesses in the region to realise efficiencies that will help productivity and create the drive to realize net zero goals.”

The Pittsburgh-based company is looking to establish a manufacturing plant in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, which will create around 300 jobs.

Loosararian, who set up Gecko in 2013 when he was still at college studying electrical engineering, added: “As our business continues to expand across Europe and the Middle East, we see the UAE market as a critical hub to access both the manufacturing and engineering talent we need to continue to accelerate our growth.

“Our first employees are already settling in the UAE and we have ambitious plans to grow our footprint.”

Gecko’s robots use sensor payloads to detect otherwise invisible damage, allowing for precision repairs and predictive maintenance. Clients include oil and gas companies, paper mills and the US Navy.

Its move to the UAE also follows the launch of a Dubai initiative to turn robotics and automation into a $9.5 billion sector.

Under the plan announced by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the use of robotics and automation will be accelerated in key economic sectors in a bid to increase its contribution to the emirate’s GDP to 9 percent within 10 years.

Led by the Dubai Future Foundation, the program aims to provide 200,000 robots over the next 10 years.

Luring the next generation

The NextGen FDI initiative was launched in July to attract digitally enabled businesses from all over the world, offering a package of market-entry fundamentals. 

These include flexible incorporation processes, fast-track licensing, bulk visa issuances, banking facilitation and commercial and residential lease incentives. 

Gecko joins UK-based tech company Gödel and food app developer Krush Brands in the programme.

Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council, said the digital economy offered “tremendous potential” for the two countries.

The UAE was an ideal location for regional headquarters and hub trans-shipment facilities, he added, with more than 1,500 US companies having already set up offices in the country.

Amazon Web Services recently launched the AWS Middle East (UAE) Region, its second operation in the Middle East. It is expected to support nearly 6,000 jobs annually, with a planned $5 billion investment in the local economy through to 2036.

Looking forward, Sebright said there were growth opportunities particularly in the areas of healthcare, energy, space, advanced manufacturing and the digital economy.