SenseTime Group Ltd., one of the world’s most valuable artificial-intelligence startups, is setting up a hub in Abu Dhabi for Europe, Middle East and Africa with plans to hire hundreds of engineers.
The Chinese facial recognition firm, which counts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as an investor, will start work on the research and development center this year and build AI capabilities across seven industries including healthcare, remote sensing and education, according to a statement. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office, which seeks to attract businesses to the emirate, will provide a support package as part of the partnership.
“The SenseTime formation team is coming to Abu Dhabi next week to establish the new office. This means we will already have a small team ramped up in 2019,” said ADIO Chief Executive Officer Elham Al Qasim. “Hiring will start this year and will be boosted to around 250 jobs by the end of next year.”
Gulf Arab states are seeking to plow some of their oil and natural gas billions into technology and communications to lessen their reliance on crude and to bring home the businesses and skills to transform their economies. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates said it will allow foreigners to own 100% of businesses across industries.
Mubadala Investment Co. and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are expected to back SoftBank Group Corp’s second technology investment vehicle modeled on its giant $100 billion Vision Fund, people familiar with the matter said this week.
“Through the investments we have made in the tech sector globally, we have built relationships that are helping our adoption of technology and innovations that will promote the growth of our economy,” Al Qasim said. Over the next three years, “ADIO will make more than 15 billion dirhams ($4 billion) of incentives available to private sector companies.”
Abu Dhabi is also working on ensuring that the right quality and the right volume of talent comes in to support these tech companies. “We will create a community by putting very large tech companies and start ups side by side so they may both benefit in various ways, including fluidity of talent,” Al Qasim said.
SenseTime specializes in systems that analyze faces and images on an enormous scale and works with policing bodies, retailers and health-care researchers in China and internationally. The startup has said it experienced 400% growth in past years as it encompassed more industries, from cameras in retailer Suning’s stores to driverless cars for Honda.