Business Spotlight

Business Spotlight

HERC –  Health, Exercise & Research Center is the only company of its kind with a so-called full circle approach based in Dubai, UAE.  HERC operates within three departments; Research, Education, and Strength.

HERC’s Research Department is the first, and at the time of writing this report, the only entity having original sports and exercise science research in the United Arab Emirates. With original papers published in International peer-reviewed journals and comprehensive research reviews, they support local development of the Sporting and Health sector by supplying Institutions and organizations with a clear what-to-do solution. At the moment, HERC’s research department has six research papers in the pre-publishing phase and one ongoing research project on the traits and characteristics of Personal Trainers in the UAE. You can learn more about this project and its research team using this link. 

We achieved our initial goal of setting a baseline for Sports & amp; Exercise science research in the UAE. In the second stage, we plan to connect with the country’s leading institutions, universities, and organizations to raise research quality to improve the Emirates Sports sector. We benefit from our network of scientists from four continents in developing this department. Ivana Banićević, Ph.D.*, is the head of HERC’s Research Department. The education department provides world-class education from sports and exercise sciences to individuals to fitness and sports clubs, institutions, and government entities.

Their most distinguished programs are internationally recognized by OFQUAL and delivered through courses and seminars. Also, they have successfully created and registered the newest; science-backed, evidence-based approaches on the National level in the UAE. The last decade showcased turbulent changes in global education systems that affected sports &amp, exercise, science, and education. As a result, small to medium education centers gained an advantage compared to Universities and Colleges due to their ability to transform and adapt to the most relevant and appropriate curriculums. This helps them serve the Industry’s needs without compromising quality. I believe that we did a great job creating an interactive cloud-based learning management system that presents modern-day mentoring for fitness and sports coaches and organizations.

Dragan Stankić, Ph.D.* Head of HERC’s Education Department

HERC’s strength Department provides various health and exercise-related services, from sports coaching, personal training, kinesiotherapy, and nutrition to gym fitness management solutions. Our highly educated and specialized team offers gold-standard services within the UAE, backed by our Education and Research Department. The Science to Practice is the most challenging yet significant step in improving the practical domain. Our team believes that tracking trainers and coaches are valuable to establishing a robust, consumer-friendly environment where all crucial tasks can be accomplished with ease. The Strength Department is the final product of the other two Departments, where ideas and methods are tested, and feedback is returned to the loop for future improvement.

Željko Banićević, Ph.D.* Founder & CEO Head of HERC’s Education Department

HERC’s clientele varies between departments. For example, the strength Department has clients looking for personal training, sports coaching, physiotherapy, or nutrition management. Our team consists of trainers and therapists with different specializations, and we use our coaching platform, HERC Fitness& App, to provide a second-to-none experience and results. HERC’s Education Department has clients from various industries. Some are looking to become certified personal trainers, while others want to specialize in strength and conditioning or add a new service to their offering with sports massage therapy courses. As a result, they host many seminars and classes for continuous professional development. On the 25th of June, we will introduce the first UAE-based certification for Blood Flow Restriction training. Aside from individuals, they have periodical requests to deliver customized courses for various companies and institutions within the private and public sectors of the UAE. 

Research Department has a goal of setting the standards within the sport and fitness industry based on original research and expert opinions. Their clients in the private sector are companies and sports and medical centers that recognize the importance of research and its advantages. On the other hand, they can support government entities by developing research projects on the National level. For example, HERC has room for functional diagnostic within its center with the gold standard instruments needed for scientific research. 

Founder’s Story

HERC’s founder, Željko Banićević, came to Dubai in 2014. Back then, there were a few education providers within the Industry in the early stage of development. No Institutions or Universities had Sports & Exercise Science programs; hence he could not continue with his further personal growth within academia. The idea of forming the first such institution was born. After managing hundreds of athletes and clients within the sport and fitness domain and lecturing on various health & exercise courses, four years later, the idea was realized. HERC got officially registered as a mainland company with its headquarters in Dubai. In its first year of work, the company faced many challenges, and the fact that it was self-sponsored in its entirety didn’t help, neither the fact that 90% of start-ups fail. In its first year, the company based its income on services such as personal training, sports coaching, kinesiotherapy, nutrition, and periodical guest lecturing on various courses. In 2019, Education and Research Department’s development plan was realized, and the company started developing all three directions simultaneously. Forming an executive team and recruiting the heads of departments was a milestone that set us on the trajectory of success. As a result of Dragan and Ivana joining the HERC team, they developed their departments in just six months, and HERC became the first sports and exercise science research center in the UAE.

The magnificent trio presents HERC’s executive team, and it is not by luck that they have succeeded in their endeavor. All three have a diploma in physiotherapy and a bachelor’s in sports and physical education.

Ivana holds two master’s degrees in Sports Science, specializing in youth development and motor control, and Sports Medicine as Sports Medicine and physiotherapy specialist. She is currently enrolled in a full-time Ph.D. program in Sport Sciences. Dragan has a master’s degree in Sports Science specializing in Kinezitherapy, and he is a Ph.D. student. Željko has a masters degree in Sports Science, specializing in Strength and Conditioning, and is enrolled in Ph.D. studies in the Faculty of Sport and Psychology. Aside from the above-mentioned, Ivana and Dragan are internationally qualified Internal Quality Assurers, and Željko is the Lead IQA for education. The 2030 UAE Development trajectory has an excellent plan for improving health standards and physical activity among the UAE residents and knowing that many world-class Universities see their opportunity to open local campuses and bring the needed expertise to the UAE. HERC looks forward to supporting the private and public sectors for the common goals and developing a long-term strategy.

The Sports & Fitness Industry is constantly growing in the UAE, and the need for a well-rounded, robust system that would bring the private and public sectors under the same roof is a must. Therefore, we believe that creating sports legislation and a nationwide sports system should be the country’s priority. 


Aside from accommodating many professional and semi-professional athletes in the past four years, they have educated hundreds of sports and exercise professionals. In addition, they worked with government entities such as the Ministry of Interior, Hemaya International Center, KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority), Emirates Schools Establishment, Dubai Police, and Dubai Police Academy. They presented several projects within the EXPO 2020. The most notable ones were: the Ministry of Interiors celebrations; the 50th year of the UAE with Tactical Strength and Conditioning Drill organized for 200 hundred students of Dubai Police Academy, the LTAD program was organized for 300 kids from local Emirates schools, and during the three-day-long project, the YPDM model was presented to more than 700 students from various primary schools.

They supported various government projects such as Dubai 30×30 and Positive Spirit Initiative. We have been interviewed, featured, and mentioned in more than twenty local and international newspapers and media platforms, ranging from independent to government outlets, such as Arab News, DXB BARQ, Emirates News Agency, among others. 

Advice to Other Business Start-ups

Creating a company from scratch with little to no support is like Elon Musk’s saying; chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends. It takes courage, patience, and hard work. Not to discourage the readers or future entrepreneurs, but be ready for constant ups and downs and pain. Ultimately, if you genuinely believe in your idea and are willing to give 100 %, accept the failure and ride with it, it is possible to succeed. There will be no one to support you initially, but everyone will be willing to jump into the lagoon of success later.

Connecting with like-minded people, forming a trustable team, and differentiating good from bad intentions are more important than the whole company idea, as many have these as their breaking points. 

Staying on track and not taking a faster route is essential. After initial success, those opportunities often present themselves and lead you to a dead-end if not cautious. Not every great opportunity is suitable for your company’s future. Choose wisely and ask for other opinions. 

To find out more about HERC or contact them, you can find them on the HERC website, Instagram, Facebook, and google maps.

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS

I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.

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