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A SLEW of bilateral initiatives were announced on Monday by France and Singapore on the back of French President Francois Hollande's two-day state visit here.
French technology companies are now looking to consolidate to form a French Tech Hub in Singapore. This network will be developed in close partnership with key Singapore partners to lift the contribution of the French tech community in Singapore.
Once formally launched, the French Tech Hub in Singapore will also work closely with other French Tech Hubs around the world, and notably in Asia.
As it is, French companies are working on Smart City projects in Singapore. These include the Dassault Systèmes project on Virtual Singapore, the Housing and Development Board's (HDB) collaboration with Electricite de France on developing a complex system modelling tool to improve city and town planning, and Bolloré's large-scale electric car-sharing scheme. Both countries will continue to collaborate in these related areas.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has inked a cooperation agreement with its counterpart in France to foster the development of new fintech technologies in both countries. Both countries will also look to boost the network of French companies in healthcare and biomedical sciences in South-east Asia, to address an urgent need to find solutions to reduce costs and to ensure that the elderly are supported in this sector.
Both countries will meet again next year to encourage further reflection on how they can work together to meet innovation goals.
As Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam opened the Singapore-France Innovation Forum 2017 on Monday, he noted that Singapore and France face several similar economic challenges. The aim of both governments is to accelerate innovation and productivity growth, as the basis for a broad-based increase in citizens' living standards.
He pointed out that Singapore and other advanced economies must narrow the widening gap in innovation, as firms at the frontier of knowledge, productivity and new products are charging ahead of the rest of the economy.
"Firms near the frontier - and French firms are very good examples of this internationally - continue to be highly productive and innovative. But the much larger mass of firms, which are not near the frontiers, have seen little or no productivity growth," said Mr Tharman, who is also the coordinating minister for economic and social policies.
"Put another way, almost everywhere in the developed world, we have seen a weakening in the pace with which new ideas, new innovations are spread, from the frontier to the rest of our economies. These growing gaps in productivity have also been an important driver of wage inequalities in most developed countries."
Mr Tharman said that even in research and development (R&D), some recent studies show that while the leading firms continue to get strong returns from R&D, most companies are not doing well in getting value from their R&D investments.
"Our own national strategies aim to grow innovation in all its dimensions - in other words, to strengthen innovation at the frontiers of knowledge as well as to spread new ideas more quickly through the rest of our economies," he said.
Ties between Singapore and France are expected to get a boost when the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) comes into force.
As the first FTA concluded between the EU and an Asean member state, the EUSFTA is also a building block towards an eventual EU-Asean FTA, said Mr Tharman.
"At a time when the world continues to face heightened uncertainty, and as technological disruptions threaten to upend a whole range of industries, it is tempting for nations to question the value of remaining open to the world," said Mr Tharman. "This is not an option for Singapore."