Place Branding and Public Diplomacy

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 305–317 | Cite as

Crystallising the Dubai model of cluster-based development

  • Yasser Al-Saleh
Case Study


Since the mid-1980s, Dubai has embarked on creating clusters—in the form of special economic zones—that provide both business-friendly policies and world-class infrastructure. These clusters have helped Dubai by luring foreign investment and have been a fundamental basis for economic development and diversification. Drawing on empirical evidence, this article sheds light on the Dubai experience by articulating an explorative model for cluster-based economic development. Data collected through in-depth interviews, literature reviews and scrutiny of media and policy planning documents were analysed using grounded theory to identify the main features of a particular model for Dubai, which was ultimately labelled the ‘ABS model’—where ‘A’ stands for Attraction, ‘B’ for Branding and ‘S’ for State-led development. Just as the ‘Anti-lock Braking System’ prevents a car from skidding on a wet road, the Dubai ABS model will protect the Emirate in times of economic crisis by preventing its development legacy from stalling and ultimately enhancing its economic resilience. The proposed model together with the research findings and recommendations contribute to the ongoing debate surrounding cluster-based economic development.


Dubai Clusters Economic diversification Economic resilience 



The author would like to express his gratitude to the anonymous reviewers, Dr Kai Chan and Dr Allen Gomes, for their much-appreciated feedback on an earlier version of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mohammed Bin Rashid School of GovernmentDubaiUnited Arab Emirates

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