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Joining hands on the digital platform
ONE area of common interest between Germany and Singapore is the digital revolution - and there are many opportunities to work together in this, at both the commercial and business levels as well as the government-to-government level.
Singapore's forward-looking views and commitment to embracing the fourth industrial revolution, mean that both countries can mutually benefit. "Following the Smart Nation Initiative from last year, we see Singapore setting foot into the next milestone to boost the digital ecosystem," said Singapore-German Chamber of Commerce (SGC) president Claus Trenner.
He noted that Singapore is very clued in to the benefits it can gain from a fully digitalised economy in the future, and is rapidly embracing Industry 4.0. This in turn attracts German companies, in addition to the natural advantages Singapore already has.
"For German companies, especially in the digital sector, Singapore is the preferred destination in Southeast Asia. Not only does it have the state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities, Singapore has also established herself as the most promising starting point for expansion and market entry into the Asean region," said Dr Trenner.
"The Singapore government's strong support for companies creates a positive business environment that significantly facilitates market entry and enhances business-level cooperation for German companies," he added.
Meanwhile, the impending EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is also expected to facilitate knowledge and business exchange between Germany and Singapore and further strengthen the existing good business relations between the two countries, said Dr Trenner.
SGC has initiated many projects between German and Singapore companies to exchange knowledge and to explore collaboration in a wide range of sectors. These include the organisation of several business seminars and conferences with prominent speakers on current topics such as the development of smart solutions to ensure growth and sustainability; urbanisation and the importance of mobility and connectivity in the future; the future of advanced manufacturing and its pertinence for Singapore; the fourth Industrial Revolution, with emphasis on digital transformation and artificial intelligence.
Business delegations from Germany have also brought established German Mittelstand companies and Singaporean industry experts together for several meaningful business discussions on topics such as smart solutions, Dr Trenner highlighted.
He added that for an upcoming conference on Oct 11, the SGC has invited prominent industry experts including high-level Singaporean and German executives and academic leaders to inform and discuss about the vital issue of cybersecurity in today's rapidly changing digital environment.
Dr Trenner pointed out that the SGC plays a vital role in establishing lasting partnerships between German and Singapore companies, and in supporting these companies with their market entry in Singapore and Germany. "Our services include the organisation of conferences, individual support of businesses, organising business delegations and the provision of information," he added.
Collaboration in R&D and between institutions of higher education is also another area that has seen many some developments.
"It is a known fact that Singapore has established herself to be the preferred R&D base in Asean," opined Dr Trenner, adding that the republic offers a favourable environment and provides a reliable knowledge base for the sector's development.
He cited the Research, Innovation & Enterprise Plan as an example of the government's commitment to R&D. The five-year programme involves high public expenditure investments of S$19 billion into key sectors like health and biomedical sciences, manufacturing and engineering, as well as innovation.
"Within the SGC, our R&D Committee is a viable platform for companies and academia to discuss current trends in the research community and to advocate topics related to IP and cooperation between academic institutions and companies," said Dr Trenner.
He noted that this committee also provides contacts to relevant government bodies and other relevant topics arising. For instance, the SGC recently organised a meeting with Prof Wolfgang Hermann, president of the Technical University Munich, where the future of cooperation between businesses and universities was discussed.
Dr Trenner added that the SGC is also at the forefront of R&D initiatives through active coordination of knowledge exchange programmes with Singapore companies, organising site visits to R&D facilities for on-site learning and arranging special meetings to discuss pertinent topics on R&D.
With the Singapore government very keen to promote high-tech startups, this is another area in which the two countries can work together.
"Not too long ago, I read in The Business Times that Singapore had overtaken Silicon Valley to become No 1 for global startup talent. Blk 71 Ayer Rajah Crescent in Singapore has also been hailed as the one of the world's most compact entrepreneurial ecosystems," said Dr Trenner.
He noted that the SGC has also been very involved in this topic, and in addition to publishing a study to inform Germany about the startup community in Singapore, the SGC has since organised various meetings with stakeholders in Block 71, investors, incubators and startups.
"In October 2016, we supported Singapore startups to participate in a one-week tour through Germany, organised by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and several German chambers of commerce," highlighted Dr Trenner.
The SGC has the capacity and the network to link up startups with established companies and to advise new companies on aspects such as human resources, R&D, how to explore the surrounding markets and other related areas, he said.
"Through close ties of the SGC member companies, our committees and the business community, the SGC is a perfect platform not only for established businesses but also for startups," Dr Trenner added.