DUBAI, - Expo 2020 Dubai today released an operational update. It provides a detailed overview of its activities to date in the lead-up to the first mega-event of its kind in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Progress is underway in three key areas: - Site development and preparation - Engagement with organisations and individuals to build a global Collaborative platform - Commercial partnerships and outreach to potential participants Operational Highlights Site development: Initial development of the 4.38 square kilometre site in the Dubai South district began in September 2015. To date, more than 4.7 million cubic metres of earth has been recycled and moved in preparation for the construction phase - In May 2016, Expo 2020 Dubai revealed its Master Plan at the Arab Media Forum Collaborative platform: - 11 editions of BusinessConnect events starting in September 2015 that have brought 826 businesses in contact with Expo 2020 Dubai to discuss delivering an exceptional experience and meaningful legacy, as well as areas of collaboration. There have been a total of 18 BusinessConnect sessions covering 11 different topics so far and through this and other events, conferences and forums, the Engagement team has liaised with more than 2,000 business representatives - Several Engagement initiatives have been launched in line with the UAE's Youth Empowerment Strategy and the National Youth Strategy, including YouthConnect in November 2015 and the Apprenticeship Programme in April 2016, both aimed to address youth career development in the UAE. The first YouthConnect event attracted a total attendance of 800.

- The official Expo 2020 Dubai logo was unveiled at a public launch ceremony on 28 March 2016 led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai - Approximately 250 attendees representing 132 countries convened for the inaugural International Planning Meeting in May 2016 to discuss participation in Expo 2020 - Expo Live is a 100 million euro programme which aims to create and accelerate the development and deployment of new solutions that encapsulate the spirit of Expo 2020 Dubai's overarching theme, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, and its three sub-theme areas of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability - 400 business representatives gathered at the Collaborative Entrepreneurship Summit in May 2016 to identify opportunities for collaborative growth and synergies among established corporations, multinationals, and startups - The Expo 2020 Dubai team has 140 employees, with an approximate 50-50 gender split. Two-thirds are under the age of 40 years Commercial partnerships: - Three Premier Partnerships, worth several hundred million dollars, have been announced to date including Emirates Airline in May 2016, and Etisalat and DP World in June 2016 - Procurement is well underway. So far, more than 8,000 local and international companies have registered on Expo 2020 Dubai's procurement portal. The total value of all contracts and purchase orders to date is circa AED 1.95 billion - Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up more than 3,100 of businesses registered on the portal. Of the orders to date, 320 have been awarded to SMEs. 20% of the Expo's total direct and indirect spend, representing more than AED 5 billion in contracts, will be allocated to SMEs, both local and international The broad outline of activity leading up to the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai is: 2016: The Content Master Plan has been completed and strategy is being further developed to ensure a strong thematic and cultural impact of Expo 2020, promoting and demonstrating UAE thought leadership and cultural depth.

The site is being prepared for construction and designs will be finalised, including for the signature pavilions. Outreach to participating nations is currently taking place.

Engagement programmes such as Business Connect and Youth Connect are being rolled out, and the first initiative under the Expo Live programme has been launched.

2017 - 2018: The Expo team will carry out active engagement with participating nations, while initiatives around youth and business engagement will progress. The team will also continue to reach out across the cultural landscape, including with the creative community, to generate excitement and make the connection between the mega-event and its cultural significance.

The main construction will take place and participants will build their pavilions on site.

2019 - 2020: The site will be handed over to test Event Operations and a series of events will be held in preparation for the Expo.

2020: On 20 October, the mega-event opens.

2021: On 10 April, the mega-event closes, followed by a transition to the legacy phase.

In Depth - Operational Update Site development The development of the Expo 2020 Dubai site, located in the Dubai South district, reflects the mega-event's theme 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future', as well as the sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. The structures will meet the needs of a range of stakeholders, including the participant nations, businesses, NGOs and the 25 million visitors expected during the mega-event. Sustainability and legacy are important design principles, and more than 80% of the site is to be reused or repurposed in the legacy phase. To date, 98% of the waste on site has been recycled and used in construction, as opposed to being sent to a landfill.

1. A Master Plan for the Expo In May 2016, Expo 2020 Dubai revealed its Master Plan at the Arab Media Forum, featuring the following: a. The redistribution of the visitor entrances - the reviewed Master Plan now has four major entrances across the site; b. The redistribution and allocation of pavilion plots; c. An increase in the visitor parking capacity.

The refined Master Plan has three operational modes: 1. Base-Build Phase (up until 2019): The completion of construction activities and the initial handover of the project to Expo 2020 2. Expo Phase (2019-2021): When Expo 2020 will have full control for the Expo event preparations and public participation. This phase will include overlay construction 3. Transformation and Legacy Phase (2022 onwards): This is the final operational phase of the project, when the site will transform into part of the thriving district of Dubai South The Expo site is centred around Al Wasl Plaza, the figurative and literal heart of Expo 2020 Dubai. Spreading outwards from Al Wasl will be three Theme Districts (Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability).

Pavilions and their iconic architecture are central to World Expos. Thirteen of the world's leading architectural firms took part in a global competition, which was launched in July 2015 by Emaar on behalf of Expo 2020 Dubai, to seek the designs for the Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability pavilions that will bring to life Expo 2020's core sub-themes.

2. Construction Early works on the 4.38 square kilometre site in the Dubai South district began in September 2015. To date, more than 4.7 million cubic metres of earth has been moved ahead of the main construction phase - enough sand to fill about 1,800 Olympic swimming pools.

The infrastructure packaging procurement strategy is designed to support broader construction development activity on site.

The first infrastructure package, which is one of four packages totalling AED 1.3 billion, is due to commence shortly and will be completed by April 2018. It involves early works to support the development of the Expo Village where participants will reside during the period of the Expo. Other elements include systems for sewage, water, electricity and telecom cabling.

The second package will go to tender shortly and will include the deep infrastructure for the gated area of the site. The third and final infrastructure package will include the surface road network.

The design phase for aspects including the public realm, specialist site-wide elements, and the three Thematic Districts is well underway - an effort led by a team of both international and local consultants. In addition, major procurement packages will be awarded in 2016 to support the development of the Exhibition Centre and Shade Structure.

Ongoing planning and procurement of the construction and site-wide logistics continues to ensure the site will be ready for participants to begin work on their respective pavilions beginning in April 2018.

All infrastructure work will be completed by October 2019.

"The Expo 2020 Dubai site has been designed to deliver a memorable experience for all visitors that will embark on a journey of discovery and leave them inspired to contribute to the common vision of our shared future. Work on the site is progressing well as per our schedule." - Ahmed Al Khatib, Vice President of Real Estate for Expo 2020 Dubai (May 2016) 3. Operations and Visitor Experience The principal focus of the Event Operations team is the design of the services required to put on a successful Expo for 25 million visitors and more than 200 potential participant countries, companies and NGOs. Work has been conducted to identify and analyse 'guest journey scenarios', in order to identify key touch points and the operational requirements involved. This forms the basis of the Expo site operations plan, which is currently being developed.

4. Site Legacy Planning The future use and enduring legacy of the site has been an important consideration in the design and construction efforts. After the mega-event itself comes to a close, there is a comprehensive strategy in place to transition the Expo site into an economically attractive and sustainable ecosystem. There are further, less tangible elements to Legacy Planning that include knowledge-creation, youth empowerment, global and political reputation and social and perception change.

Strategy for the Physical Legacy involved detailed research and analysis on future trends, and the identification of drivers of industry growth. Social development analysis also took place to identify the type of commercial and social organisations that could be located on the site, in addition to real estate demand analysis to determine the site requirements. Extensive benchmarking of past mega-events was conducted in order to gather insights and explore different approaches related to Legacy planning. The main objective of the site will be to bring together large corporates, Small Medium Enterprises (SME) and social institutions in a holistic ecosystem, that would enable multiple solutions across industries and provide strong value-add by combining the identified technology concepts.

The site buildings and infrastructure will be transitioned into a combination of commercial, social, educational, hospitality and residential development, creating a destination that will serve to carry on the spirit of the Expo and continue to inspire businesses, entrepreneurs, youth, residents and visitors to connect, explore synergies and innovate.

Collaborative Platform Our theme - 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' - is based on a simple insight: generating sustainable solutions to global problems demands collaboration across cultures, nations and regions.

Collaboration is a key part of what the Expo 2020 Dubai's teams do. Their activities span an array of significant initiatives, events, and programmes. Expo has engaged with a cross-section of important audiences including multinational businesses, entrepreneurs and startups, government officials and multilateral organisations, as well as young people across the region.

1. Expo Live Expo Live is a 100 million Euro grant programme, which was announced in May 2016 at the International Planning Meeting (IPM) in the presence of approximately 250 representatives from 132 countries.

The programme aims to create and accelerate the development and deployment of new solutions in the areas of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. This supports the theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' through enabling problem-solvers from around the world to come together to address social, economic and environmental issues.

Expo Live will provide global applicants with a series of large and small grants to be awarded over the next four years, including the '2016 Innovation Impact Grants', the first in a series of global grants available, which will range from EUR 50,000 to 2 million per project.

The 2016 Innovation Impact Grants will focus on projects in Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. In mobility, grants aim to create smarter and more productive movement of people, goods and ideas through addressing issues in transportation, travel and exploration, personal mobility, logistics and digital connectivity. In opportunity, grants aim to unlock potential within individuals and communities through addressing issues in education, employment, new industries, financial capital, and governance. Lastly, in sustainability, grants aim to promote living in balance with our planet through addressing issues around natural ecosystems and biodiversity, resources, sustainable cities and built habitats, climate change and green growth.

The programme is in its current 'Call for Proposals' stage until 30 September 2016, and is now open to all problem-solvers, inventors and innovators, social enterprises; small entrepreneurs; universities, research or educational bodies; not-for-profit foundations; private companies or public-private partnerships; government institutions or public associations; non-governmental organizations; community-based or grassroots groups.

2. Engagement Initiatives Expo 2020 Dubai has hosted, or taken part in, more than 30 events in the past eight months and engaged with more than 2,000 business representatives. These ranged in scale from large milestone events such as the International Planning Meeting that was attended by approximately 250 local and international guests, through to 20 university visits to raise awareness of Expo activities.

Initiatives include: a. BusinessConnect: This initiative launched in April 2015, with the aim of engaging the business community in the Expo 2020 Dubai journey in the spirit of the theme 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'. Each session in the series is focused on a specific aspect of Expo and is in the format of an open dialogue with local, regional and international businesses. The series aims to engage the business community in dialogue and shift the traditional model of procurement to one based more on the value of collaboration.

The first BusinessConnect session, in September 2015, was opened by Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General Bureau Expo 2020 Dubai, and was used to emphasise Expo 2020 Dubai's commitment to open and transparent procurement.

There have been eleven editions of BusinessConnect to date, spanning a range of themes including Technology and Innovation, Architecture and Design, Youth and Edutainment. They have been attended by some of the leading business minds from wide spectrum of industries, with more than 800 business representatives attending sessions so far.

b. YouthConnect: In November 2015, Expo 2020 launched YouthConnect, an annual event, designed by youth for youth with the objective of inspiring and instilling confidence in individuals between the ages of 16 and 25. The inaugural event attracted a total of 800 attendees. Sessions were led by individuals from some of the UAE and the world's most successful organisations and individuals including: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), The Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards (HIPA), Facebook, New York University Abu Dhabi, AstroLabs, SALT, Mohammad Saeed Harib, and Adeeb Al Balooshi. By introducing the elements of partnership and collaboration, network building, science-in-action, creative design, skills development, career coaching and cultural exchange, the YouthConnect event embodied the Expo 2020 theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'. The next YouthConnect, which will take place in November 2016, will be open to residents of the GCC.

c. The Apprenticeship Programme: This is a pioneering nine-month scheme that will offer valuable hands-on experience, vocational training and skills development to 27 young people from across the UAE aged 28 years and below.

Following its launch in April 2016, the programme attracted in excess of 2,700 applications, reflecting the high level of interest in Expo 2020 amongst the nation's young people. From these, 150 candidates were invited to a series of innovation assessment selection workshops at the Expo site in the Dubai South district. On 30 August 2016, selected apprentices will join a nine-month programme to learn directly from industry experts leading the delivery of Expo 2020 Dubai and will benefit from ongoing mentorship and networking opportunities. During the programme, apprentices will engage in skill-building activities, applied business challenges, and receive support to deliver a capstone project.

In August 2016, Expo 2020 Dubai joined with the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA) to launch a photography competition for young people across the GCC, aged 16-25. The competition will run until 30 September 2016, with the winners announced at the 2016 edition of YouthConnect, to be held in Dubai in November 2106. The three entry categories match Expo 2020 Dubai's subthemes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

d. University Roadshows: Over the past year, Expo 2020 Dubai has continued its University Roadshow series. There have been a total of 20 roadshow events, seven of which took place in April 2016. They have been attended by a total of approximately 3,000 students. Additionally, many international universities that have visited Dubai have been hosted by the Expo team to generate international awareness. The objective was to promote understanding of the mega-event and its vision for development, as well as to mobilise students and faculty members to engage with the mega-event's various programmes and initiatives. There are further university roadshows planned for 2016.

With 65% of the population of the Middle East under the age of 25, young people will play a significant role in the future of the region. Expo initiatives such as YouthConnect, the Apprenticeship Programme and the university roadshow series understand the importance of youth empowerment. Taken together, these programmes embody the theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' and provide opportunities for young people to reach their potential as future leaders.

3. Collaborative Entrepreneurship Expo 2020 Dubai is working to deliver a first-of-its-kind effort in the Gulf region to nurture synergies between established corporations and startups. Collaborative Entrepreneurship seeks to unleash value through collaborative opportunities, making a positive economic impact and forming part of Expo 2020 Dubai's legacy.

In May 2016, more than 400 regional business representatives gathered at the Collaborative Entrepreneurship Summit. The attendees included 181 startups, 89 corporates and 63 entrepreneurship ecosystem supporters, as well as multinationals and government entities. It provided the attendees with the opportunity to explore how Collaborative Entrepreneurship works, as well as enabling participants to network with one-another.

The second phase of Collaborative Entrepreneurship will see SMEs working with governmental bodies.

In addition to the Summit, Expo 2020 and Wamda have launched a Collaborative Entrepreneurship website (coentrepreneurship.com/) and a tool-kit for corporates to assist participation in the initiative.

"Startups are leaders in innovation and are taking on some of the region's greatest challenges. Many large corporations are only beginning to grapple with the rising influence of these agile businesses. Startups can leverage the resources of large companies to scale rapidly, and large companies can tap the innovative potential and flexibility of startups to obtain access to new markets and technologies, as well as skills." - Habib Haddad, Wamda's Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer (April 2016) 4. International Engagement Expo 2020 Dubai's theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' is a platform for international thought, leadership and progress. In today's interconnected world, a renewed vision of progress and development based on shared purpose and commitment is important, and collaboration in an international context is key.

Significant progress has been made in realising the Expo 2020 vision, including the following: a. Switzerland Signing: In April 2016, Switzerland became the first country to officially sign up for Expo 2020 Dubai, citing the economic and political significance of the host country and the geopolitical weight of the Gulf region as the key reasons behind its participation. The Swiss Federal Council also agreed to a budget of AED 57 million ($15.5 million) to build the Swiss Pavilion on the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

b. International Planning Meeting: The theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' and Master Plan for the global mega-event were explored at Expo 2020 Dubai's International Planning Meeting (IPM) that took place on 23-24 May 2016, at which 250 senior representatives from 132 countries around the world attended to learn about the benefits of participation, the preparations underway, and the long-term legacy plans. The event also included a detailed discussion of Expo 2020 Dubai's Master Plan, the overarching theme and three sub-themes, and the visitor journey. Business opportunities in the UAE for innovation, trade and investment, and knowledge transfer were also presented. The IPM marks the first in a series of meetings to be held with international participants leading up to the mega-event.

Source: Emirates News Agency