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German-Singapore ties on deeper level

Germany and Singapore are team players in every way, and it's at institutions and companies where the magic happens.

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In 2017, Technische Universit├Ąt Braunschweig signed a memorandum of understanding with Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology for "model factories", which would allow visitors to view the advanced manufacturing capabilities of both factories simultaneously.

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On the Singapore side, the Model Factory@ SIMTech hosts visits weekly, and to date more than 8,000 visitors from more than 1,800 companies from over 25 countries, including Germany, have visited.

GERMAN and Singapore institutions and companies that are partners in various ways have been busy in recent years.

Take Technische Universit├Ąt Braunschweig, better known as TU Braunschweig or TUBS. Germany's Ambassador to Singapore, Dr Ulrich Sante, says the university, which is one of the oldest technical universities in the world, was "the latest name added to the long list of German universities collaborating with Singapore's science institutions".

In 2017, TU Braunschweig, a member of the TU9 alliance of leading institutes of technology in Germany, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

Under the MOU, Model Factory@SIMTech and Die Lernfabrik@TU Braunschweig - which means "Learning Factory" in German - would become "twin factories", allowing visitors to view the advanced manufacturing capabilities of both factories simultaneously.

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In a joint reply, the institutions say: "Through the constant introduction of new technologies for manufacturing, both model factories at SIMTech and TU Braunschweig have evolved since their first collaborative contact. The active exchange of researchers from both sides allowed creating of new formats for shop floor learning especially focusing on energy and resource efficiency."

Die Lernfabrik tours for industry professionals as well as master's and bachelor's students are conducted several times per month. About 150 to 200 visitors tour the learning factory each year, to learn about its manufacturing capability and the cooperation with SIMTech.

On the Singapore side, the Model Factory@SIMTech hosts visits weekly, and to date more than 8,000 visitors from more than 1,800 companies from over 25 countries, including Germany, have visited the model factory.

Additionally, joint master classes on energy efficient factories supported by "Industrie 4.0 (Industry 4.0) enablers" are held at SIMTech by lecturers from TU Braunschweig.

Industry 4.0 refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where industrial change is marked by networked technologies, robots, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.

SIMTech and TU Braunschweig adds that in 2018, a group of industry captains from Singapore visited Die Lernfabrik in Braunschweig, as well as several other research hot spots in Germany as part of a C-Suite programme.

"Building up on these experiences, TU Braunschweig is engaged in the establishment of a research centre in Singapore in close collaboration with SIMTech. The so-called ISUrF-Hub (Industrial Symbiosis and Urban Factories Hub) is driven by its vision to shape positive and livable cities by focusing on innovative solutions and strategies for sustainable development at the interface of urban design and urban manufacturing," say the two institutions. This is also why the opening of a TU Braunschweig office at SIMTech in Singapore in October 2018 "marked an important milestone".

In another area of science and technology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Germany's Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) launched a joint lab on Jan 14, 2019 to conduct research in artificial senses, and develop innovative robotics and healthcare solutions.

The joint lab - known as Max Planck-NTU Joint Laboratory for Artificial Senses - houses 30 NTU and MPICI researchers and staff who explore mechanical sensing such as pressure and strain, and chemical sensing like smell and taste. They are also looking into physiological sensing that involves electrocardiograms

Dr Sante adds that Germany's close investment links to Singapore have become even closer this year, with major investments in Singapore, and for some of these German companies, such investments are their biggest in Asia.

In June 2019, it was announced that German chemical giant Evonik Industries invested more than 500 million euros (S$755 million) in a second plant in Singapore to produce a key additive in animal feed.

And in August 2019, Germany-headquartered industrial gases and engineering group Linde announced a new US$1.4 billion complex on Jurong Island. The complex, which will be ready by 2023, will quadruple its capacity here to produce and supply hydrogen and synthesis gas.

In September, Syntellix, a German firm that pioneered the use of bioabsorbable bone implants, opened a production site in Singapore. This is its first facility outside its home country.

There are also long-term plans by German firms, such as semiconductor Infineon. Infineon is investing 70 million euros over five years from 2017, to transform its existing production site in Singapore into a smart factory and raise manufacturing productivity.

Infineon has previously said: "Singapore is a vital node in Infineon's Global Production Network, which will empower the company to have real-time visibility and control over multiple manufacturing sites globally.

"Having operated here for over 45 years, Singapore was a natural choice to be the pilot site to capitalise on a strong foundation and cross-functional competence to tackle the challenges of smart manufacturing implementation."

With all these partnerships, what is important are the lessons German and Singapore companies and institutions learn from each other.

TU Braunschweig and SIMTech say: "Singapore is a unique environment and 'living lab' for new technologies and business models. Similar to Germany, Singapore mainly relies on knowledge and skills of its people.

"One of the most valuable lessons for TU Braunschweig members is the speed of technology development and adoption as well as the diffusion into Singapore companies, which are made possible by efficient decision structures and highly skilled people at SIMTech."

TU Braunschweig for instance, learnt how the scarcity of resources in Singapore such as land and water - affects prioritisation of future research fields and activities, and the differences in project planning and execution driven by differences in the funding schemes in Germany and Singapore.

They add: "On the flipside, SIMTech has also learnt from TUBS and Prof Christoph Herrmann in particular, the importance of sustainable manufacturing, especially eco-impacts of manufacturing. The research sharing by TUBS in this area has been important in the build-up of the sustainable and life-cycle management team, which today has evolved into a full-fledged research group in SIMTech.

"In the set-up of the model factory, SIMTech has also benefited from the wisdom of TUBS and is consequently able to design a better model factory from the lessons learnt and experiences shared. The twinning of the two learning factories will serve to provide complementary capabilities to both sides symbiotically."