Saudi Arabia wants to be a global tech hub. This event is helping to achieve that

With the second edition set for February 2023, LEAP is shaping into one of the world's most influential tech events, showcasing technology's critical role in advancing human lives and tackling the world's most pressing problems.

Saudi Arabia wants to be a global tech hub. This event is helping to achieve that
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The phrase “technological transformation” is tossed around Riyadh conversations and business plans as freely as talk of “early-stage investing.” The country has become a magnet for global tech giants and hundreds of software startups. It plans to spend over $1 billion annually on R&D focusing on aging and extending healthy human life as it builds the first AI-powered cognitive city in the world. Yes, these are not fever dreams of science fiction writers anymore. In fact, $20 billion has been earmarked for the advancement of artificial intelligence. 

Imagine how much progress the country has made.

A vision backs the progress — Vision 2030 – to transform the country into one of the world’s big hubs for science and technology and move into the knowledge economy. The government is pumping billions into stimulating a tech ecosystem in the country. Its sovereign wealth fund would double in size to exceed $1.1 trillion in assets under management by 2025.

While communication networks, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, and AI are all exponentially improving and adopted across industries in the country, it struck the country’s leadership that they can also be interweaved and converged faster if the number of people with access to emerging technologies is increased more problems could be solved, more cutting-edge innovative ideas could be funded, which in turn will lead to more breakthroughs. 

For a country that has launched investments worth $6.4 billion in future technologies, leading global efforts requires greater engagement in technology and innovation — deeper and longer-term. The way forward was to bring together global and regional thought-leaders, technology leaders, creators, and innovators on one stage to discuss, debate, and identify opportunities.


In 2022, LEAP was born – a ground-breaking tech event to reform business opportunities, empower the women workforce, nurture tech startups, secure foreign investment, and transform the country, co-organised by Informa Tech, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Saudi Federation For Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones.

Announcing the event, Eng. Abdullah Amer Al-Swaha, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said, “LEAP will be the most iconic and seismic tech event for a generation; where East meets West and tech innovation meets investment.” 

“The event will have reverberations worldwide and serve as a catalyst as the Saudi government gears up to transform and diversify its economy,” the minister added.

Remarkably, the inaugural LEAP in February 2022 set a new model and benchmark for global events considered the best in the world. Some of the topics addressed at LEAP included AI, Industry 4.0, robotics, smart cities, and IoT.

An impressive line-up of speakers from around the world – from renowned entrepreneur Steven Bartlett, Eugene Kaspersky, Peggy Johnson of Magic Leap, Maëlle Gavet of Techstars and Dr. Makaziwe Mandela of House of Mandela Family Foundation to football legends Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo – shared inspiring case studies. About 513 speakers talked about tackling poverty, disease, access to education, productivity, mobility, and smart living.

The event showcased inspiring technology across major sectors, including health, finance, energy, education, digital entertainment, transport, and smart cities. Apart from various keynote speeches and panels, the Rocket Fuel Start-up Pitch Competition had a prize fund of $1,000,000 awarded to startups and entrepreneurs who pitched out-of-box “tech-for-humanity” ideas in various competitions. 

The interest was strong as if they had all been waiting for something like this.


Reflecting the future-ready aspirations of the country, in 2023, the event is taking it up a notch: Journeying Into New Worlds will be a theme throughout the event, from event programming to keynotes highlighting how purpose-driven technological advancements improve the lives of people.

The event will set the roadmap for the next frontier in technology. Futurists and pioneers across all fields will join thousands of investors, business leaders, policymakers, and tech enthusiasts using the latest technological advancements and accelerated computing to solve their biggest challenges and address humanity’s most pressing issues.

The event aims to reconceptualize industries, including retail and finance, enabling them to make faster, better-informed decisions, accelerate into a digital future and allow the ecosystem to shape the future of tech through best-in-class partnerships, addressing market gaps globally. Digital health, metaverse, and mobility will have a strong presence at the event and explore the power of technology to revolutionize how people connect, featuring new categories, including Web3.

In the second edition of the four-day event, set to take place in Riyadh from February 6-9, 2023, attendees will experience new technologies from global brands, hear about the future of technology from thought leaders – innovators, authors, and athletes – and collaborate face-to-face with other attendees.

The star-studded speakers include football legend and tech investor Thierry Henry, billionaire venture capital investor Tim Draper, President and CEO of Nokia Pekka Lundmark, President, and CEO of ServiceNow Bill McDermott, and Rishad Premji, Chairman of Wipro, among many others.

For a country advancing itself as a player in the global space industry: announced a $2.1 billion investment in its space program, putative speakers at LEAP talking about emerging space tech are space artist and astronaut Sian Proctor, the mission pilot for the Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission to space, and former NASA astronaut Susan Kilrain.  

Another space the kingdom is exploring is the metaverse and online virtual world, seen as the future of business and human interaction and projected to reach $5 trillion by 2030. At LEAP, metaverse strategic advisor Ioana Matei will share insights about this transformative technology and its value to the business. LEAP will have dedicated gaming and metaverse events taking place.

A meeting point for tech professionals, the second edition of LEAP will have over a thousand exhibitors from 130 countries and over 700 of the world’s leading tech companies showcasing future technologies at the event. It’s also a platform for investors to discover new tech entrepreneurs. Through the Rocket Fuel Startup competition ($1 million prize fund), tech talents can pitch their ideas to seasoned investors, explore Startup Park, and network.  

Tech innovation has always been the catalyst for change. And it is evident that not only will Saudi Arabia benefit from LEAP, the tech world will reap its rewards, too.


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