Saudi and British Tech-Entrepreneurs met in London on 24 April

The Saudi British Joint Business Council (SBJBC) hosted an ambitious partnership forum which brought together some 100 Saudi and British SMEs, investors, business incubators and supporting organisations in the smart cities, fintech and e-commerce sectors in London on 24 April. 

Supported by Saudi British Bank, Mishcon de Reya and Al Mojel Group, the forum was held at Level39 in Canary Wharf, Europe’s leading centre for finance, cyber security and smart- city technology businesses. 

High level panel sessions focussed on the development of successful SME ecosystems in both countries as well as SME access to finance and mentoring. Afternoon workshops addressed the opportunities in both markets and the support available. Agreed follow up actions include the possible establishment of a Saudi-UK Tech Hub, and an SBJBC led mission to Saudi Arabia in November 2018 for UK tech entrepreneurs.

Speakers included: Ben Brabyn (Head of Level39), Dale Millar (Adviser to Saudi Minister of Communications & IT), Ali AlSaif (General Manager Strategic Partnerships, Saudi SME Authority), Kevin Cullen (Vice President Innovation, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) ) and Julian David (CEO Tech UK).

The 50 strong Saudi business delegation visited Oxford University on 25 April including discussions with the Industrial Partnerships and Innovation Team, and visits to the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. 


Saudi-UK CEO Forum Sets the Scene for Future Commercial Partnerships

SBJBC UK Chair, Baroness Symons chaired the high profile Saudi-UK CEO Forum at Mansion House in The City of London on 8 March. Some 400 leading Saudi and British business representatives participated, including a large number of SBJBC members. The event coincided with the visit to the UK by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which a number of strategic and commercial partnerships were signed.

The forum was opened by The Lord Mayor of The City of London, Charles Bowman, following which the Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment, HE Dr Majed Al Qusabi and the Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox MP, addressed delegates. Panel discussions focussed on Saudi Vision 2030 implementation challenges and opportunities, Women in leadership and Saudi Giga-Projects including; NEOM and Red Sea Tourism.

 SBJBC looks forward to building on the momentum of the visit to help generate meaningful partnerships in education, healthcare, technology, innovation and energy sectors. 

SBJBCs Special Meeting 7 March

The Saudi British Joint Business Council (SBJBC) met in a special session in London on 7 March 2018 on the occasion of the visit to the UK by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia.

HE Dr Majed Al Qasabi, Minister of Commerce, HE Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, Minister of Economy & Planning and HE Eng. Ibrahim Al Omar, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Investment Authority (SAGIA) attended the meeting and updated members on recent reforms.

They drew attention to a number of initiatives that SBJBC had already taken to promote
knowledge and business exchange in key Vision 2030 sectors including privatisation
and SME development, and agreed the following:
Memorandum of Understanding between Council of Saudi Chambers,
British Chambers of Commerce and SAGIA to facilitate two-way trade and
Memorandum of Understanding between SBJBC UK and Institutional
Investor to promote deal flow and knowledge exchange in technology sector
investing between both countries
Further actions in support of SME development including SBJBC’s third SME
Partnership Forum in London on 24 April to bring together innovative Saudi
and British SMEs in smart cities, fintech, cyber security and e-commerce with
investors and supporting organisations. 

Saudi/UK SME Partnership Forum – Registration Open

Registration is now open for our 3rd Saudi/UK SME Forum. The Forum will be held at Level39 in London on 24 April and will focus on smart cities (including AI and IoT), fintech, cyber security and e-commerce. It is free to attend but places are limited and subject to pre-selection.

Representatives of some 50 innovative British and Saudi companies will be selected in line with the following target sectors: Smart Cities (including AI and IoT) Cyber security, Fintech and E-commerce. A substantial Saudi business delegation, including investors, will also participate in the morning panel sessions and afternoon business roundtables. 

The purpose of the forum will be:

– To provide a platform for selected Saudi and British tech companies to present projects, meet investors and discuss potential partnerships.

– To hear about the opportunities in both markets and make participants aware of support available for SMEs.

– To exchange experience in the developments of successful SME ecosystems and access to finance and mentoring.

To register interest please complete the form hereRegistration will close on 6 April, and companies will be informed if their application has been successful shortly after. A provisional programme is now available. 



Saudi Unveils New Entrepreneur Licence

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has launched a entrepreneur licence allowing new companies to benefit from small and medium enterprise services and incentives.

The scheme comes follows the unveiling of a $19.2bn stimulus package for the private sector in December which includes $426.6m for indirect lending to SMEs, $746.5m for an SME investment fund and $1.86bn to refund government fees paid by new SMEs.

SAGIA said the licence would incentivise and support entrepreneurs with Saudi projects approved by universities or business incubators inside the kingdom.

To meet the criteria entrepreneurs have to submit articles of association of the company and an acceptance letter from a Saudi university or one of the approved business incubators. The licence is also open to residents in the kingdom provided they receive a no objection letter from their employer or sponsor.

The authority will work with the Small and Medium Enterprises Authority to support projects in the kingdom and reduce obstacles faced by entrepreneurs. In October, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund launched a SAR4bn ($1.07bn) “fund of funds” to support the growth of SMEs. This aims to boost access to capital with the goal of creating 2,600 jobs and contributing SAR400m ($106.7m) to GDP by the end of 2020.


Saudi Colleges of Excellence Workshop in London

Dr Ahmed Al Fuhaid, Governor of the Technical Vocational Training Corporation (TBTC) and Dr Fahd Al Tuwaijari, CEO Colleges of Excellence gave an update on the ambitious International Technical Colleges (ITC) programme in Saudi Arabia in London on 22 January.

Of the 31 technical colleges so far established (17 female and 14 male), 50% of these are managed by UK training providers under turnkey contracts. 18% of high school graduates (approx 170,000) are currently in technical training, and the objective is to raise this to 40%.  10 new strategic training partnerships are being established, and requests for proposals for nine new ITCs are expected to be invited shortly. Total investment over 5 years is expected to reach $4.2 billion.


Saudi Renewable Energy Plans Announced at World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi

The Saudi Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) has announced tenders for some 4 gigawatts of solar and wind power projects in 2018, as part of its plan to supply 9.500MW or 10% of Saudi power demand from renewable sources by 2023.  

Turki Al Shehri, Head of REPDO joined a panel session at the World Future Energy Summit Conference in Abu Dhabi on 16 January chaired by SBJBC member Florence Eid, and organised by Reed Exhibitions of the UK.  SBJBC Executive Director Chris Innes-Hopkins visited the event and met with Saudi and British exhibitors to discuss cooperation opportunities. 


Introduction of VAT (Value Added Tax)

The Kingdom has introduced a 5% VAT levy from 1st January 2018 applied to the majority of goods and services. These include petrol and diesel, food, clothing, utility bills and hotel rooms which will all now have VAT applied. VAT will apply at the standard rate of 5% unless the supply is specifically exempt or zero rated.

Saudi 2018 Budget Highlights

On December 19th the Government announced an expansionary fiscal budget for 2018, it plans for the largest ever budgeted expenditure of SR 978 billion, compared to SR 890 billion in 2017. Its priorities remain consistent with defence & security, education, healthcare and economic resources making up 77% of allocations.

Non-oil revenue is planned to reach SR 291 billion in 2018, showing a growth of 37%. Rises in non-oil revenue will come from a number of areas, including increased expat dependant fees and expat levies, the introduction of VAT and improvements in the investment income due to PIFs more active approach in managing sovereign wealth.

GDP growth is estimated to reach 2.7% in 2018, following -0.5% negative growth in 2017. Over coming years the debt to GDP ratio will not be allowed to exceed 25%.

SJBJC delegation visit to KAUST and KAEC, 29th November

Following SBJBC’s biannual meeting in Jeddah on 28 November, an SBJBC delegation visited the prestigious King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the nearby King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

At KAUST the delegation was briefed by the entrepreneurship and innovation centre on their accelerator and mentorship programmes (including “Taqadam” sponsored by SBJBC member Saudi British Bank), which resulted in 48 business start-ups last year.  KAUST is a fully coeducational campus with 70% foreign and 30% Saudi students and with impressive research partnerships.

At KAEC, the delegation visited the newly established Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship, and received an update on the investment incentives available to companies locating to KAEC – the nearest Saudi equivalent to a free trade zone. The new free port is fully operational, and some 100 companies have invested in the industrial zone. The day ended with a visit to the brand new 18 hole Royal Greens Golf Club at KAEC and new residential developments.


SBJBC/BEI Meeting with IMF Mission Chief for Saudi Arabia

SBJBC UK was pleased to welcome Tim Callen, IMF Mission Chief for Saudi Arabia, for an informal discussion with some 30 SBJBC and British Expertise International members in London on 1 December.   Mr Callen gave an update on the progress of Saudi economic and fiscal reforms, and efforts to increase non-oil revenue.  He also presented conclusions from the IMF’s recent report on Saudi Arabia on the prioritisation and sequencing of reforms.   Members welcomed the progress achieved, while noting that further improvement of the business environment would help to attract investment and diversify the economy.


SBJBC’s PPP Workshop in Riyadh attracts strong participation

A 20 strong delegation of UK legal, financial, infrastructure and project management companies participated in SBJBC’s PPP Workshop hosted by the Council of Saudi Chambers in Riyadh on 27 November.  The workshop brought together the companies with government and private sector representatives to review progress in the Saudi PPP programme, and to consider opportunities for cooperation and expertise sharing.

A ‘SBJBC PPP Lessons Learned’ based on UK and international experience was presented at the workshop, and relevant case studies discussed.  The Paper highlighted the key factors to be addressed in developing well structured PPP projects, in a form that could be shared with Saudi stakeholders.

The Saudi National Committee for Privatisation & PPP participated in the workshop, and made a presentation on the NCP’s enabling role and the over 100 privatisation initiatives planned in 12 different sectors. The meeting discussed specific opportunities for cooperation in regulatory frameworks. institution building, and investment development which are being followed up.

UK Export Finance agrees US$2 billion line of credit with Saudi Aramco

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP recently signed a US$ 2 billion UK Export Finance (UKEF) line of credit with Saudi Aramco.   As part of this, UKEF will be providing Saudi Aramco with support in the form of credit guarantees to help procure goods and services from the UK.  Many UK companies already export successfully to Saudi Aramco, and this will build on previous UKEF support for Saudi Aramco joint venture projects such as the Sadara Chemicals project.  In the coming months UKEF will be running a series of exporter events to help connect British suppliers with Aramco to fully realise the mutual benefits of this support.   SBJBC UK looks forward to participating in these.


Saudi Arabia to increase government spending next year to boost growth

Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister, Mohammed Al-Jadaan has announced plans for an expansionary budget in 2018, following IMF recommendations to ease the pace of fiscal consolidation.

The decision comes in light of the recent contraction of Saudi economic growth due to low oil prices and austerity measures.  The Ministry is reportedly preparing a three-year SAR200bn stimulus programme, and Mr Jadaan said he hoped that the first SAR40bn of the package would be strengthened by the approval of a second larger phase by the end of the year.   It is hoped that the stimulus will give a much-needed boost to the private sector, and provide further jobs to tackle the current 12.8% unemployment rate.

Saudi Public Investment Fund hosts over 2500 delegates for Future Investment Initiative

Crown Prince HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled “Neom”, an ambitious new $500 billion smart mega-city project in North-Western Saudi Arabia powered entirely on renewable energy, at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh on 24 October.
The high profile three day event was attended by over 2500 delegates from 65 countries.   UK speakers included Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox MP,  Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sir Richard Branson and HSBC Group CEO Stuart Gulliver.  Described as a Majlis to embrace global opportunities and create new partnerships, the Davos style forum was also an opportunity to debate diversification of the Saudi economy and progress of Saudi Vision 2030.
A number of SBJBC members attended and participated in some great networking opportunities.  The event is expected to be held annually.


  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Saudi British Joint Business Council
23 Grafton Street,
London W1S 4EY
Telephone: +44(0) 20 7824 1933
c/o Council of Saudi Chambers
King Fahad Branch Rd, Al Mutamarat, Riyadh 12711