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(English) Russia and Gulf countries intensify cooperation in high tech

30 сентября 2020

(English)

A series of news in the past few days came to underline the intensifying relationship between Russia and Gulf countries in the fields of technologies and investment.

Mubadala eyes Russian technologies

Thus last week Sberbank, the state-controlled Russian financial and tech giant (now known as Sber), announced a “strategic agreement” with Mubadala Investment Company (Mubadala), an Abu Dhabi-based sovereign investor, “to explore opportunities of mutual benefits.”

While the parties intend to cooperate in various ways in the field of finance, a part of the agreement is about technology. Sberbank and Mubadala intend to work together in such fields as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, life sciences, venture capital, Islamic finance, telemedicine and education. A “more detailed roadmap” will specify engagement and cooperation plans across these verticals.

The Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund already took part in investment deals involving Russian startups. Last year, in particular, Mubadala contributed an undisclosed amount to a $40 million round for online video portal ivi.ru. In 2018, Mubadala took part in a more modest round for a startup called iCanDeliver.

RDIF’s Middle-East connections

In both cases, Russia’s sovereign fund RDIF was a co-investor as part of a long-term partnership between the two sovereign funds.

Last week RDIF announced another investment involving Mubadala in a Russian startup. No less than 1 billion rubles (nearly $13 million) have been injected into NtechLab, a internationally-successful company that develops face recognition technologies and associated tools.

In June 2019, RDIF received $2 billion from unnamed foreign investors — including from the UAE — to invest in Russian AI projects and adjacent areas.

Russian startups come to Bahrain

On its side Skolkovo, the international tech hub recently built on the outskirts of Moscow, has just announced the completion of an online business tour in Bahrain. The initiative, which aimed to showcase top Russian startups in the field of healthcare and energy, was supported by Kanoo Group, a large family-owned conglomerate based in UAE and Oman; the Bahrain Development SMEs Association; and other organisations.

Skolkovo President Arkady Dvorkovich sees in Bahrain “one of the best entry points to the Middle-East and African markets” and “one of the financial capitals of the Middle East.”

Bahrain’s potential has also been noticed by RVC, the Russian state fund-of-funds dedicated to innovation, which announced last year a partnership with a local capital and private equity firm to create a series of corporate accelerators for Russian and international startups.

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