DIFC Innovation Licence

Unlock your start-up's potential with DIFC's Innovation Licence – scale up from Dubai & tap into a global network of opportunities!

Unlock exponential growth with the DIFC Innovation Licence, tailor-made for technology and innovation start-ups like yours. Benefit from a subsidised fee structure designed to support your journey at any stage, whether you’re developing groundbreaking products or entering new test phases. This licence is your gateway to turning ambitious ideas into market-ready innovations.

Why do you need the DIFC Licence?

The DIFC Innovation Licence serves as a launch pad for relevant and cutting-edge technology firms across all different sectors; enabling you to tap into tech innovations across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

The DIFC Innovation Licence is a Commercial Licence with a subsidised fee structure open to all technology and innovation firms, enabling growth at any stage. This licence caters to firms interested in developing or testing new, novel, or innovative products.

By taking advantage of this offer, companies can benefit from:

  • Highly subsidised commercial license costs
  • Subsidised visa costs
  • Up to 4 visas on the first desk

Also, get additional support from DIFC’s team to help you establish and operate your business seamlessly.

Dubai is the leading talent Hub, business gateway, growth platform, and lifestyle destination in the MEASA region. DIFC has a close to 20-year track record of facilitating trade and investment flows across MEASA. The region comprises 72 countries with a combined population of around three billion people and a nominal GDP of approximately USD 8 trillion.

Golden visa programme

The leading talent hub, business gateway, growth platform, and lifestyle destination in the MEASA region.

Leading business gateway

#1 in ease of doing business in MENA while filling the time-zone gap between east & west.

Regional innovation hub

#1 in MEASA cities and 14th globally in the Innovative Cities Index 2023.

Regional business hub

70% of Fortune 500 companies have their regional head offices in Dubai.

Global connectivity

#1 in the global index for air connectivity.

The DIFC Innovation Licence offers a commercial licence with a subsidised fee structure specifically designed for technology and innovation start-ups.

Tailored to the unique needs of emerging businesses across all sectors, this licence provides access to cost-effective licensing options and co-working spaces, empowering you to innovate and scale with confidence.

90% subsidised Licence at USD 1,500 per annum

Access to a thriving start-up ecosystem

No restriction on capital repatriation

Zero currency restrictions

Robust regulatory framework

100% foreign ownership

Some of the start-ups at DIFC

Timeline

Stage 1: Apply & obtain the In-Principle Approval
5-7 working days

Stage 2: Setup of the Legal Entity in the DIFC
A few business days

Stage 3: Submit for Commercial Licence to be issued

Connect with DIFC

Contact Abbas Zeynalli
abbas@startus-insights.com

FAQs

See our responses to some of the most common questions or view our Data Protection.

What is DIFC?

Located in the heart of Dubai, DIFC is the MEASA region’s leading financial hub. It is home to leading growth companies and designed to empower investors and innovators alike.

DIFC offers outstanding opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs, including access to the Dubai Future District Fund, with the mandate to increase start-up funding and attract venture capital funds to Dubai.

The Centre is home to the DIFC Innovation Hub, the largest start-up ecosystem in the region. The hub is an integral part of the leadership’s strategy for economic growth: a thriving ecosystem of stakeholders, from start-ups to venture builders, financial institutions, and corporate innovation labs.

By bringing diverse stakeholders together through co-working space and a regular events calendar, including Blockchain Week, Talent Week and the AI Festival, the DIFC has built an environment for knowledge-sharing, inspiration and collaboration.

What is the DIFC Innovation Licence?

The DIFC Innovation Licence is a Commercial Licence with a subsidised fee structure open to all technology and innovation start-ups.

Innovators from all sectors can access the Innovation Licence, which comes with subsidised commercial licensing options and co-working space.

Who can apply for the DIFC Innovation Licence?

The DIFC Innovation Licence is offered to a wider ecosystem of technology enablers, catering to Technology/Innovation firms interested in developing or testing new, novel or innovative products.

How long is the subsidised Innovation Licence valid for?

The Licence is subsidised for a period of 2 years. At a rate of USD 1,500 per annum. Starting from the third year, the subsidised rate will depend on your number of FTEs. If it exceeds 10 FTEs, then the rate is USD 12,000 per annum.

Does a start-up need physical space to avail the DIFC Innovation Licence?

Yes, physical presence is mandatory in the DIFC. The minimum requirement for the DIFC Innovation Licence is 1 flexi-desk (USD 500+vat).

Do I need to be physically present to apply for the Licence?

No, the DIFC client on-boarding system is fully digital, and the process is done online.

What is the timeline of setting up in the DIFC?

The process comes in two stages:

1. The first stage is to obtain the In-Principle Approval from the Registration Review Committee, which can take around 5-7 working days.

2. Once you have been granted the In-Principle Approval you will be given access to second stage which is the setup of the legal entity in the DIFC. This process can take up to a day to a few days to complete as it requires you to complete the steps needed (Articles of Association, obtaining a lease, paying the fees etc.).

Once that is done you will be able to submit for the Commercial Licence to be issued. Please note that the second stage is dependent on how fast you can finish the process.

How many visas can I apply for?

On the first flexi desk, you would have the eligibility to apply for up to 4 visas. All visa related queries can be addressed to gs.helpdesk@difc.ae.

Are there any minimum capital requirements?

No, there are no capital requirements for entities under the DIFC Innovation Licence.

Are there any other costs/fees?

Yes, other fees include office space, visa costs, the Data Protection and Confirmation Statement.

What if I would like to conduct financial services (regulated activities)?

The DIFC Innovation Licence is only applicable to those conducting un-regulated activities. For further information on conducting financial services, please visit the following links: www.dfsa.ae / www.dfsa.ae/Innovation.

Can I open a bank account with a DIFC Innovation Licence?

Once the entity is registered and the Commercial Licence is issued, you may begin the process of opening a bank account. The bank account opening remains at the discretion of the bank’s policies and requirements.

Can I add new shareholders?

Yes, you can once the entity is incorporated. The process can be done via the portal. There is no fee associated with this service. Page 27 of the following Corporate Actions: Client Handbook, provides information on the process.