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Coal producer Golden Energy and Resources unveils its first digital-tech innovation centre in Singapore

INDONESIAN coal producer Golden Energy and Resources (Gear) launched its inaugural innovation centre, Gear Innovation Network, in Singapore on Monday.

The innovation centre is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and will focus on digital technologies that "seek to transform capital-intensive activities at the core of Gear’s business", including mining and logistics.

The centre, located at mainboard-listed Gear's corporate headquarters, will test drive new concepts to "co-create technology-driven solutions" that can "reduce the financial and operational risks inherent in capital expenditure-intensive industries", the company said.

It will focus on applying technologies such as collaboration software, augmented reality or virtual reality, advanced fabrication, artificial intelligence and connected sensors.

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The company employs what it calls a "know-use-partner-invest" framework to identify relevant ecosystem players to partner, including venture capitalists, universities, technology companies, construction players and regulators.

Gear’s group CEO Fuganto Widjaja said: “We recognise that no one can tackle these challenges alone. This is why we actively seek to build an ecosystem of like-minded partners to co-create solutions for Gear’s operations that can also, in parallel, scale regionally.”

Over the next three years, Gear is looking to grow the innovation team to include innovation scouts, product managers, research scientists and engineers.

According to Mukund Sridhar, partner at McKinsey & Company, technology adoption in capital expenditure-intensive industries such as mining and construction ranks the second lowest, only after agriculture.

“This chronic under-investment is the result of the cyclical nature of these sectors, coupled with the low profit margins for contractors. However, many have yet to appreciate that technology can play a significant role in improving profitability and decreasing business risk,” noted Mr Sridhar.

Lim Kok Kiang, assistant managing director, EDB, said Asean enterprises, many of which are family owned, are seeking to transform their businesses in response to technological disruption.

"EDB recently established a family businesses team to engage these enterprises on their business and partnership interests in Singapore. As such, EDB is excited that Gear is anchoring its innovation centre here. We look forward to strengthening our partnership as Gear develops and expands their innovation capabilities to address regional problem statements, from Singapore.”

Gear shares were up 4.44 per cent, or S$0.01 at S$0.235 as at the lunch break on Monday.