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DUBAI, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Dubai's government said on Monday it had agreed to invest $33.5 million in the pilot projects and prototypes of 19 companies as part of a new drive to develop its technology sector.
The emirate has traditionally focused on real estate, finance, trade and tourism, but aims to spend 1 billion dirhams ($270 million) over the next five years on a programme to fund technology research in areas including healthcare, transport, renewable energy, education and security.
Dubai does not plan to buy equity stakes in companies conducting the research but will use its government departments as test-beds for their projects, and hopes to benefit as the firms build operations in the emirate.
Among the first 19 firms to sign deals were U.S. technology group Honeywell, an Estonian start-up named Guaana which wants to develop a universal format for scientific projects, and ConsenSys, which builds tools for systems using blockchain, the technology behind the bitcoin cryptocurrency.
U.S.-based Hyperloop One agreed with the government to explore routes between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A hyperloop uses magnets to levitate pods inside an airless tube, creating conditions in which the pods can move people and freight at up to 750 miles (1,200 kms) an hour.
One of the main institutions backing the technology programme is Dubai Holding, the investment vehicle of the emirate's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. In the previous two decades, Dubai Holding played a major role developing the emirate's tourism and real estate sectors. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; editing by Richard Lough)