Under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development goals, artificial intelligence, data science, robotics, and related fields have quickly become a private and public-sector priority for investment and growth. A number of events have taken place or been planned in Saudi Arabia in 2022 to support the AI sector, in addition to several high-profile agreements signed between Saudi entities and U.S. companies. The opportunities for U.S. companies in the Saudi AI sector are immense – the Saudi government expects AI to boost global gross domestic product 14%, or $15 trillion, by the year 2030, while Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest technology market with a value of over $50 billion. The Saudi government seeks to stimulate growth and position itself as a regional technological and innovation hub by attracting international partners, and a number of U.S. companies have played a central role in this pivot by participating in these recent events and agreements.
The Second Annual Global Intelligence Summit was held in Riyadh from September 13-15, 2022, under the theme “Artificial Intelligence for the Good of Humanity.” Organized by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA), the summit gathered 3,000 participants and convened 200 speakers from 70 countries with backgrounds as international policymakers, executives from leading technology, communications, and investment companies, and thought leaders from the global AI and data industries. The summit’s themes covered three basic questions at the heart of developing AI for the world’s benefit: “AI Now,” describing how the industry is deploying, scaling, and using AI; “AI Next,” answering what the future of the industry should look like and how AI should help people, businesses, and governments; and “AI Never,” ensuring a future world that uses AI ethically and responsibly. Speakers and participants represented a number of prominent U.S. organizations, including Honeywell, Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Boston Dynamics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and more.
In the weeks before and after the Global AI Summit, a number of deals between U.S. and Saudi data and AI companies were announced. Google for Startups (a program launched by Google) signed an agreement with Riyadh-based company The Garage to support and empower more than 100 technology startups in Saudi Arabia and around the world by establishing global business accelerators, with the help of the Ministry for Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). In addition, Google Cloud signed an agreement with SDAIA, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA), and the U.S.-based global information systems (GIS) company Climate Engine to launch the Earth Observation and Science Program, which will use earth observation technologies and AI-driven solutions to address climate change-related environmental, water, and agricultural challenges. Meanwhile, Apple has collaborated with Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, the world’s largest women’s university, to establish the Apple Academy. The Apple Academy recently graduated more than 100 women and will help place them in positions with Apple and the wider emerging tech startup sector in Saudi Arabia.
U.S.-based Nala Robotics recently announced a strategic agreement with the Riyadh-based Saudi Excellence Company to develop, market, and deliver autonomous food services to Saudi Arabia with the goals of setting up a semi-autonomous cloud kitchen, establishing an R&D center for AI and machine learning in robotics, and establishing a regional sales and logistics center.
Houston-based Halliburton signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SDAIA to create data science and AI applications and solutions through DS365.ai to address challenges in the energy field. The collaboration will support hydrogen, hydrocarbon, and new energy verticals by aiding the oil and gas sector’s subsurface field predictions and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) development.
Saudi Aramco has emerged as a partner in the AI sector for U.S. companies, most notably in a $250 million agreement with California-based Beyond Limits. The agreement will lead to the establishment of a global AI corridor that would create an ecosystem in Saudi Arabia for finding commercial applications for AI solutions, training the next generation of Saudi data and AI professionals, and supporting Saudi startups. Aramco will make use of Beyond Limits’ expertise in industrial AI solutions to develop a training academy, an R&D program, a residency program for Saudi AI startups, and other collaborations. Another major Saudi player in the AI industry is NEOM, whose subsidiary NEOM Tech & Digital recent has invested over $1 billion in AI in 2022 alone. The company, which will soon change its name to Tonomus, will integrate AI technologies and solutions into zero-carbon systems, smart city systems, and a metaverse/digital twin for its flagship project The Line.
The next major events in Saudi Arabia that will include companies and leaders from the AI sector are the 6th Annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) from October 25-27 in Riyadh and LEAP 2023, from February 6-9 in Riyadh. The FII covers a wide range of industries, but the future of AI will be included in the list of topics that will be discussed by the government and business leaders in attendance. As with last year’s event, LEAP will bring together professionals from disruptive, cutting edge companies and organizations with tech sector venture capitalists with the goal of supporting startups in fintech, AI, data science, and robotics.
If you are a U.S. company involved in AI or an adjacent industry, we can help you connect with private and public sector partners in the Saudi market. Contact us today to learn how we can help.